Nightmare before Christmas: Hospitality bosses fear they will miss out on £4 BILLION in takings over festive period – as Britons stay home and avoid High Streets over Omicron fears
- Estimated 37 million fewer pints will be sold this Xmas than had been expected
- A total of 3 million bookings in pubs have been cancelled in recent days
- Told that the hospitality sector was a ‘zombie economy’ because of Government advice, Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted financial support was in place
The full damage to Britain’s businesses caused by the new ‘lockdown by stealth’ was laid bare yesterday.
It was the day that the country shut down – despite Boris Johnson insisting that he did not want festivities to be cancelled.
High streets and roads were deserted as shoppers and office workers heeded scientists’ dire warnings about the new wave of Covid cases caused by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Pubs and restaurants – left staring at empty tables as customers cancelled bookings – were forced to shut up shop at what should be their busiest time of the year. And the curtain came down on London’s West End as some of the biggest theatre shows were hit by virus outbreaks among performers and ticket-holders having to isolate.
Even home deliveries were last night at risk as warehouses and delivery firms suffered staff shortages. Industry leaders warned of a ‘nightmare before Christmas’ for hospitality firms, with fears they will miss out on as much as £4billion in takings this month.
UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘Christmas trade is always crucial for the hospitality industry, making up as much as a quarter of the year’s profit for many businesses.
‘Last Christmas was cancelled and so much rested on this December for businesses already struggling under a burden of debt from the pandemic and facing rising costs across the board. If operators are unable to trade profitably over the next month, many will simply not survive.’
New statistics reveal the stark impact of the Prime Minister’s order to work from home as of Monday followed by Wednesday’s grim warning over festive socialising from chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
They came as Tory MP Joy Morrissey blasted ‘unelected’ Professor Whitty and said the UK was ‘not a public health socialist state’ in a now-deleted tweet.
Empty cafes and restaurants at lunch time around Leicester City Centre on Thursday 16th December 2021
Yesterday’s morning rush-hour was among the quietest since the end of the summer holidays, according to TomTom traffic data.
Congestion levels have plunged 27 per cent in a week in Manchester, with similar drops around the country. Google figures suggest that up to half of City of London staff did not turn up to their desks in the Square Mile on Monday while Tube usage yesterday morning was down 31 per cent on the week before. Footfall in the West End is down 8 per cent in a week and theatres said they suffered a 27 per cent drop in business on Monday compared with a week earlier.
An estimated 37million fewer pints will be sold this Christmas than had been expected, according to the British Beer And Pub Association. A total of 3million bookings in pubs have been cancelled in recent days.
Sales in some London pubs are down as much as 70 per cent compared with the same week in 2019, according to the boss of Greene King, Nick Mackenzie. He said: ‘The guidance from Government to limit social interactions and shift to working from home has put our industry into lockdown in everything but name.’
Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin accused Professor Whitty of ‘scaring the smalls off the public’ while Young’s pub group chief Patrick Dardis slammed the ‘latest fear campaign’.
Hospitality firms are ramping up calls for support from the Government for hard-hit pubs and restaurants as the Omicron variant sweeps the country and consumer confidence is knocked by new restrictions and increasing health warnings. Picture date: Thursday December 16, 2021 – Bull and Dog Pub, Omskirk
Live music venues have also suffered badly. Greg Parmley, of industry body Live, said: ‘The current lockdown by stealth is quickly pushing the live music sector to the edge. We are now facing a crippling blow as individual venues scramble to cover the spiralling costs of Covid-related cancellations, which will inevitably result in permanent closures.’
The Prime Minister denied the stealth claims. On a visit to Kent, he insisted: ‘We’re not saying that we want to cancel stuff, we’re not locking stuff down. And the fastest route back to normality is to get boosted [with vaccines].’
Told that the hospitality sector was a ‘zombie economy’ because of Government advice, he insisted financial support was in place.