Salisbury hospitality venues are seeing a flurry of last-minute cancellations and disruption due to staff testing positive amid concerns of the new Omicron variant.

According to Salisbury Business Improvement District (BID), the whole UK hospitality sector is bracing itself for a £4bn hit in sales over the festive period, with the new work from home guidance and fears over the infectious new variant.

Many members of the public are cancelling social plans as they fear contracting the virus and having to self isolate over Christmas.

Robin McGowan, Chief Executive of Salisbury BID, said that Christmas is an “extremely vital time” for the hospitality sector.

The loss of income will affect jobs, venues and the wider local economy as a whole.

“The Government must meet businesses halfway and introduce a financial package that will give them the support needed to get them through the next few months. Without it, our hard-working hospitality sector could be left devastated,” he said.

Tommy Robinson, who manages the Cathedral Bar and Hotel in Salisbury and the Old Mill Hotel in Harnham, said “regrettably” the latest restrictions have impacted the businesses.

“Christmas parties have been cancelled because employers have been working from home and decided it not right to mix with other people. I have lost about 60 per cent of our Christmas Day bookings over the two sites.

“There has been a drop in footfall in the city as people are wary of the new variant and do not want to get ill before Christmas and have to self isolate.

“My colleagues up and down the country are saying that city centres that normally would be bustling now have been probably 40 per cent down.

“We are holding our breath for what Boris is going to say next.

“The problem is, what is the point in all these people getting vaccinated, if further restrictions are put in place.

“Businesses are just starting to recover from the last lockdown, and to have another one would mean the Government pays for staff’s wages, but it does not cover the profits lost.”

‘Survival mode’

Dave Hancock, director of Deacons pub, restaurant Tinga and cocktail bar and B&B Caboose, said the situation is “not good” for business.

“We are getting multiple cancellations every day – 40 per cent down at Tinga. Work Christmas parties have been cancelled.

“At Caboose, we have eight ensuite bedrooms, which are 50 per cent of our trade. Give or take, the bedrooms are 90 per cent down this week.

“That is combined with staff testing positive. Tinga has had to close on Sunday and Monday. We lateral flow every day, and a positive lateral flow is followed by a PCR.

“With a small business, three or four people off work means we physically cannot open the door, and our suppliers are also struggling for staff and lorry drivers.

“Staff and customer safety is our number one priority.

“The problem with a lockdown or being forced to close, we have is that we have fridges full of food, and alcohol has to be ordered in advance. It’s not just about closing the door, we could lose thousands of pounds worth of food.

"The Government just needs to let us know so we can plan. In the hospitality business, we make orders for food in advance.

“If there is another lockdown, we will come together and support the community, and we also need to support from the Government if they close us down. It will be survival mode.

“We always appreciate the support from locals and we feel like the community in Salisbury is really backing independent businesses.”

‘Come out and support us’

Shane O’Neill, owner of the Old Ale and Coffee House and new Salisbury BID Director, added: “We have already seen a big impact from new guidance issued by the Government. About 40% of our bookings have been cancelled and consumer confidence has been hit.

“It is time the Government acknowledged the diminishing figures and got behind us by offering much needed financial support.

“Over the last 18 months, all hospitality businesses have invested great time and money on making sure premises are Covid secure and safe, including ourselves.

“We would urge people to come out and support us still. We are open!”

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