Cancellations and staff sickness force hospitality venues to close early for Christmas

15 December 2021 by
Cancellations and staff sickness force hospitality venues to close early for Christmas

Mass cancellations and staff sickness have forced a number of hospitality businesses to close earlier than expected before Christmas.

Some restaurants and bars are struggling to stay open over the usually busy festive period as concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus have caused a dramatic drop in trade, at the same time as many staff are having to self-isolate.

In London, chef Luke Selby announced his restaurant would be closing from 15 December until 11 January. He wrote on Instagram: "With a heavy heart me and our small team here at Evelyn's Table have had to make the difficult decision to close earlier than planned from Wednesday 15 December.

"Due to members of our core team having to isolate – something that is sadly beyond our control at present and ultimately it is our duty and responsibility to keep the team and you our guests safe at this challenging time."

Barrafina Drury Lane announced it would be closed from tomorrow (16 Dec) until after Christmas, writing on social media: "We have a small team and staff members isolating makes the services non-viable." The group's Coal Drops Yard and Dean Street still restaurants remain open.

Darjeeling Express, run by chef Asma Khan, tweeted that it was facing a "double whammy of staff sickness combined with huge cancellations of groups", adding: "Can the government abandon plans to raise VAT in 2022?"

Mexican fine dining restaurant Kol in Marylebone said it had made the "difficult decision" to close for Christmas a week earlier than planned. "As key team members isolate due to covid, we have no option but to temporarily close from Wednesday 15 December," the restaurant wrote on Instagram.

UKHospitality has estimated restaurant and pub spend is set to drop by around 40% this Christmas due to cancellations, restrictions and uncertainty, equating to around £4b in lost revenue – something many businesses in the industry can ill-afford.

Trade bodies and operators have been calling for urgent government support, with fears the industry faces a lockdown in all but name.

Chef Michel Roux Jr tweeted: "My daughter's restaurant has had over 300 cancellations in the last 2 days, gone from breaking even to a loss. @BorisJohnson @RishiSunak hospitality and the supply chain need help, this is deja vu March 2020."

Lazy Lounge, a bar in Leeds, wrote on Twitter: "Every single one of our group bookings have been cancelled between now and Christmas. Last week was decent, this week there are no office workers around and we are closing early (we are in the business district of Leeds). This is worse than being told to close as we have running costs."

On Instagram, chef Tom Kerridge posted a list of 654 cancellations at one of his restaurants seen in the past six days. He wrote: "Public health is THE most important thing. The question is what will the government do to support the hospitality industry? Many places are going to crumble without help."

Sacha Lord, night time economy advisor for Manchester, appeared on Sky News to call for urgent government support. He said: "Where is the Chancellor? The Chancellor is in hiding. His silence is absolutely deafening. From the operators I'm speaking to, they're saying this is now worse than when we allowed to operate table service only. When you had to sign in to venues…at least there was support then. There's no support now, they're on their knees…this is the eleventh hour and we've had the rug pulled [from under] us."

Image: David Pereiras / Shutterstock

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