Uncertainty around the return of wedding receptions and larger events has left hotels and venues in limbo, as well as provoking further unease for organisers.
Last Friday (31 July) the government announced it was pausing the lifting of nationwide restrictions, which would have allowed wedding receptions attended by 30 people or less to resume the following day.
The opening of what prime minister Boris Johnson called ‘higher risk settings', including casinos, bowling alleys and indoor performance sites, will be postponed for at least two weeks.
Danny Pecorelli, managing director of the Exclusive Collection of luxury hotels, told The Caterer: "I think they're just eroding customer confidence. We've had brides who have had an event on hold, they've mentally come to terms with 30 guests being the maximum and moved it because the government guidelines gave them the clarity to make a decision, and then the rug has been pulled from them."
Pecorelli said the announcement had increased nervousness among couples who had booked receptions for the coming weeks and months and would have knock-on impact into the end of the year.
He added: "We've had so many weddings for 30 planned and they've all gone through a journey, we've moved dates and have just been trying to help couples have a lovely day, but it all takes time and effort. It takes conversations, it takes people that can't be on furlough to deal with that, all for zero income."
Thomas Tyranowicz is general manager of Cantley House hotel in West Berkshire, which should have hosted a wedding this weekend, which will have to be cancelled.
He told The Caterer: "We've had to move over 60 weddings between the lockdown and the end of September. I have an excellent team and we've had every couple except one move their event, but the impact is that we're performing at about 40% of revenue, despite our restaurant doing the best it ever has. We're a busy venue and in August we'd normally have 12 or 13 weddings – now we will have none. Our occupancy on weekends also depends on weddings and at the moment we only have guests staying for a leisure break."
The government also postponed planned tests of larger gatherings, which had been due to take place around the World Snooker Championship, Goodwood races and the Oval cricket last weekend, creating further uncertainty around when businesses may have a timetable for the return of the event sector.
Stuart Bowery, general manager of Grosvenor House in London's Park Lane, a JW Marriott hotel, said: "I had a watchful eye on Goodwood races and the World Snooker Championship. The fact they've been put on hold moves the timetable back of where one would have hoped to do events.
"I and other hotel operators have offered to host pilot events, but it is just really respecting the government's position on mass gatherings. We have the venues and we believe we could put in some good track and trace protocols, but we've also got to be mindful that when the government is now locking down towns and cities, it might be a contradiction to host 1,000 people in the Great Room at Grosvenor House.
"Do I see events happening this year? I would like to say it would be possible perhaps late November or December. Realistically I hope we can look forward to getting back to normal into the New Year, but that is purely dependent on there not being a second wave affecting us this winter."
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