One restaurant proprietor who had seen hundreds of people cancel Christmas Eve reservations has claimed that she is left with an ‘handful’ reservation list for what should have been her busiest week.

Natalie Isaac owns Bar 44 restaurant in Bristol with her brothers. She warned that the situation, which is creating havoc within the hospitality sector, “cannot continue”. 

They had already seen 3,200 cancellations up to last week. This number has risen further and they will lose thousands over the holiday period.

The family-owned chain has just one booking across its four locations due to cancellations caused by Covid concerns.

Their Christmas Eve calendar was full weeks ago, and Bar 44 is now expecting to get less customers than they originally anticipated.

This comes at a time when UK businesses have witnessed their takings drop due to the reduction of Christmas celebrations amid fears over Omicron spreading. 

Natalie Isaac runs restaurant chain Bar 44 with her two brothers in Bristol, and warned the current situation wreaking havoc throughout the hospitality industry 'can't continue'

Natalie Isaac owns Bar 44 restaurant in Bristol with her brother and warns that current conditions wreaking havoc on the hospitality sector ‘cannot continue’

Wider figures from hospitality leaders suggest festive takings will fall by up to 40 per cent in December. Pictured: An empty Bar 44 in Bristol

Hospitality leaders have given wider estimates that festive take-offs could plummet by as much as 40% during December. Pictured is a empty Bar 44, Bristol

Natalie, 44 Group Director, stated: “In the hospitality sector, we are fighting battles across so many fronts that we don’t know where to turn.

“Last week, we had 3200 cancellations and have received loads of bookings since.

“It is really difficult, we fully understand the current situation in public health and that people are being cautious or isolating.

“We’ve had to jump through hoops in order for March 2020 to remain open – social distancing and QR codes, masks – it can’t go on forever.

“We are a family-owned business, and our employees rely on us. In this situation the worry never leaves your head. 

Industry experts fear the alarmist messages from the Government about Omicron mutation strain may be impacting customer confidence in a time when bars and restaurants should be at their peak. 

Festive takings will fall up to 40% in December. This could cripple venues that have survived without major disruptions during previous lockdowns.

Natalie shared how the four Cowbridge restaurants, Penarth Penarth Penarth and Bristol are typically full on Christmas Eve.

Actually, they had been there for a while back – now, however, only ‘a handful’ of reservations remain, after several groups including corporate reservations have cancelled their tables.

Chinatown in London's Soho was empty on Wednesday night as London resembled a ghost town just days before Christmas

Chinatown was closed in London’s Soho on Wednesday night, as London seemed like a ghost city just days before Christmas

It was expected that the Cardiff branch would see over 400 people book to dine and wine on Christmas Eve, but only 60 people will be coming this year.

Natalie, worried said that she was concerned because “Weeks back we had been fully booked on this date. But now it’s almost empty.”

According to her, their earnings are 60% lower than what they expected at this point in the year.

Another problem for this family-run restaurant is that people “assuming” they know you’ve cancelled without informing the restaurant – which means money gets wasted when stocks go to waste.

The bumper December sales would be enough to cover January and February’s quiet periods, but she said this year there won’t be much.

Economists have now estimated that restrictions in place across the UK have already cost the hospitality and retail sectors £2.7billion this month.

An analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research has found that bars and nightclubs would lose £450million in earnings on New Year’s Eve alone if they are forced to close, while Government limits on family events on December 31 could take a further £100million out of the economy.

Natalie stated, “The worry is genuinely not leaving your head. Now we are worried whether or not we will be heading into another lockdown.”

“We have people who are dependent on us. They’re working overtime because they don’t have customers.

“We would love to cover your entire wage, but we aren’t big enough to do so – we have very little cash.

“It’s not about losing, at this point.

Natalie hopes that the New Year will bring new opportunities for them to recover their losses and grow as a company.

She stated, “The hospitality industry is truly amazing.

“It is a highly adaptive and creative sector and we try to find innovative ways to bounceback.

“But, at the moment there are many very concerned people, including ourselves.”

Which financial assistance is available now for businesses?

The Treasury has announced £1 billion of financial support for hospitality and leisure firms affected by the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in recent weeks. This is the list of support that is available for businesses:  

– Hotelity and Leisure Grants

The Treasury has allotted £683 million of funding for targeted grants for hospitality and leisure businesses in England. Businesses will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises, the Government said.

Other grants

There will also be £102 million of funding made available for further grants, to be given by local authorities to other businesses affected by the pandemic. These additional funds will likely be made available for retailers, landlords and suppliers of affected businesses. Around 200,000 companies will be eligible to receive business grants, which will all be administered locally and made available over the next few weeks.

Sick pay

According to the Government, it will cover the costs of sick pay for Covid-related absences as well as medium-sized employers in the UK. These will be made available by the Government’s statutory sickness pay rebate (SSPRS) reintroduction. This scheme provides up to two weeks’ Covid-related sick leave per employee for firms that have fewer than 250 employees. The scheme will become available to eligible firms on Tuesday, and they can start making retrospective claims starting in mid-January.

Funding for culture recovery

About £30 million of further funding will also be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund, enabling arts and culture organisations to access funding over the winter.

– The UK: Other locations

The Treasury announced £150 million for the devolved administrations. The funding, which will be issued in relation to the Barnett formula, will comprise about £80 million for the Scottish Government, £50 million for the Welsh Government and £25 million for the Northern Ireland Executive.

– Current measures

Sunak also highlighted several existing financial support programs for businesses. 

Reduced business rates relief is one of them. This applies to retail, leisure and hospitality businesses for the rest of the fiscal year. These sectors will see a 50% drop in their business rates in 2022/23. 

However, these reliefs will both have limited benefit for larger operators, with next year’s relief capped at £110,000 per business. 

The Chancellor highlighted also the hospitality VAT rate at 12.5%. This is lower than 20% before the pandemic. Although it increased to 5% from October, 

According to the pub owners, there is no VAT benefit to takes that are very low and also when closings occur.