Hospitality businesses in areas affected by last week's extensive flooding are starting to get back on their feet - but are preparing for the worst as they begin to count the cost of the disruption.
As the flood waters begin to subside, operators are awaiting the restoration of safe water supplies in several areas so they can return to business as normal.
A spokeswoman for Hotel De La Bere in Southam, Cheltenham, said: "We still have no water and are assessing the situation day by day. We're in the hands of Severn Trent Water."
John Jenkinson, owner of the Evesham hotel in Evesham, Worcestershire, was able to find a positive. "There have been a number of cancellations but there have also been a number of people making bookings too, because they have come to the area to do repair work," he said. "It is too early yet to say how that will impact us financially."
Industry watchers have started estimating some of the costs, with Paul Hickman, an analyst at KBC Peel Hunt, predicting that the flooding could cost pub group Marston's £11m in lost trade and repairs.
Hickman said the impact of the flooding, the bad weather and the English smoking ban were making 2007 a summer to forget for the pub sector.
"Even without the flooding, it has not been a desperately good summer so far," he told Caterer. "April was good, but May, June and July have been atrocious."
Punch Taverns said that it was aware of 140 cases of flood damage to its sites.
Legal director Neil Martin said there was the chance that the number of pubs affected could increase, but in the meantime it was "working closely with loss adjusters, brokers and insurers" to get pubs back in business.
Help is at hand
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has said that it will defer collection of taxes and duties, or agree instalment arrangements, where flood victims are unable to pay as a result of "severe hardship".
HMRC will also waive interest, surcharges and penalties during the time for which collection of tax or duty is deferred, introduce practical arrangements where individuals and businesses have lost records in the flooding, suspend debt-collection efforts and defer compliance checks and investigations.
Bob Cotton, British Hospitality Association chief executive, described HMRC's speedy response as "excellent" but said that the Government also must urge utility companies and banks to be sensitive during this time.
By Christopher Walton