Today, a pub boss urged Boris Johnson for clarity about Covid-19 curbs in advance of a critical week when thousands are planning to celebrate the new year at home. 

As the OmicronCovid-19 variant surges in popularity, pubs and restaurants have seen their patronage plummet. 

London’s Soho party district was deserted last night as bars and restaurants were closed at 10pm due to low footfall three nights prior to Christmas.  

Following the conclusion of Omicron being milder than Delta strains, scientists have advised that Omicron could be avoided by the Prime Minister. However, ministers believe Omicron’s cases may also be lower than they thought.

Chief executive of Oakman Group, which has pubs and restaurants in the Home Counties said that he could not have any other choice but to keep his businesses open during this week’s Today Programme, as December is when up to 30% of an annual profit.

Johnson warned this week about the Government’s monitoring of Omicron’s spread hour-by-hour and the possibility that it will act by December 25, amid concern over a fortnight “circuit breaker” that might be implemented next week.

UKHospitality reported that pubs, bars, and restaurants experienced a 41% slump in sales, while Greene King’s owner stated that certain sites had dropped 80 percent from their pre-pandemic level.

Now bosses want to trade New Year’s Eve to make it more profitable.

King claimed that the package of support for business provided by Government was “wholly inadequate” and “wholly insufficient”. He added: ‘It’s a pretty critical week for us and I think we’re still ploughing ahead perhaps optimistically but we’ve no other option.’ 

MailOnline spoke with Emma McClarkin (chief executive, British Beer and Pub Association): “Our overwhelming hope, is that we are able to remain open and trade over Christmas and the new year. This is an important time for pubs, brewers, and people will want to welcome 2022 with a pint in their local.

Rekom’s chief executive Peter Marks stated that the UK’s biggest operator of late bars or clubs told BBC Radio 4 New Year’s Eve was worth as much as 10% of their profits at an ‘absolutely crucial’ time.

“We are running at 40% down over a time that is extremely critical for our business and cash flow. Looking at next weekend, I am wondering if we will be OK until Christmas. We may even not open at midnight on New Years Eve, which can represent 8-10% of our annual profit.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said to MailOnline, “The Government should prioritize maintaining the hospitality industry open and trading.” Our venues have been made safe and inviting environments for both staff and visitors. We’ve spent millions. The cost of the sector having to shut down then reopen is staggering and will delay our recovery even further – inevitably costing thousands of jobs. 

“Devastated hospitality business’ hope of recovering losses during their busiest trading season has been crushed. But, keeping open between Christmas Eve and New Year could go some way towards helping them recover the lost revenue. Any further restrictions must see an increase in support – on top of the welcome £1billion grants package announced yesterday.’ 

A quiet Soho at night as many restaurants and bars ended up closing at 10pm due to low footfall in central London on Wednesday night

It was quiet in Soho on Wednesday night, as most restaurants and bars closed at 10pm because of low footfall.

Tables outside restaurants in Soho, London, were empty last night at 10pm as people stayed home amid Covid-19

At 10:10 last night, the tables at Soho restaurants, London were vacant as Covid-19 participants stayed home.

A quiet Soho at night as many restaurants and bars ended up closing early due to low footfall. With some closed completely not to reopen in the foreseeable future

It was quiet in Soho nightlife, as most bars and restaurants closed early because of low footfall. Some bars and restaurants were closed entirely, so they won’t reopen for theforeseeable future.

London's usually heaving pubs and restaurants were empty last night at 10pm

London’s often bustling restaurants and pubs were almost empty last night at 10. 

Soho pavements were cleared of people by 10pm in London on Wednesday night

By 10pm on Wednesday in London, Soho streets were clear of all people

The New West End Company reported that retail is being also badly affected, and yesterday’s number of shoppers in London was down 27% compared to pre-pandemic levels but up 10% on the week before. 

It comes as Rishi Sunak’s £1billion bailout for Britain’s hospitality industry to help firms hit by a collapse in Christmas bookings was today branded a ‘dud cracker’ and not even a ‘sticking plaster’ by hotel bosses.

Following days of intense lobbying by industry representatives, MPs, and firms in the wake of Omicron Covid-19’s rise, the Chancellor is now offering additional assistance to the leisure and hospitality sectors of England.

It includes one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the affected sectors in England, which the Treasury expects will be administered by local authorities and to be available in the coming weeks.

London streets were almost deserted while TomTom congestion data revealed that London yesterday saw its calmest morning rush hour, at 18% in the period from 8am to 9.

Since December 31, last year, when the level was 8% and London was subject to Tier 4 regulations, it has never been lower for that time period in capital.

Congestion is the average extra time it takes for drivers to travel compared with baseline, uncongested conditions. A congestion level of 18% results in a 30 minute trip that takes 5 minutes longer than if there was no traffic.

Reacting to Mr Sunak’s new support, Tim Rumney, the chief executive of Best Western Hotels in Great Britain said it ‘doesn’t go far enough’, and told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘It’s like a dud cracker on Christmas Day.

Soho was deserted last night at 10pm as Londoners stayed away from the city centre

Soho was left empty last night after Londoners fled the city center at 10 p.m. 

A few people stood outside a Soho pub but the usual bustling crowds were missing

A handful of people were seen outside the Soho bar, but there was no sign of the bustling crowds.

A quiet night in Soho on Wednesday night as Londoners stayed at home

As Londoners stayed in their homes, it was a quiet Wednesday night in Soho 

Side streets were completely cleared of people in Soho, London, on Wednesday night

On Wednesday night, Soho in London was completely clear of all people on side streets

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

Chinatown, London’s Soho, was almost empty as London looked like a ghost town three days prior to Christmas

Empty tables pictured in Soho, London, on Wedneday night at 10pm

Pictured in Soho (London) on Wednesday night at 10.30pm: Empty tables 

Usually crowded pubs stood completely empty in London's Soho on Wednesday night

On Wednesday night, normally crowded bars were completely deserted in London’s Soho district.

TomTom congestion data revealed London Wednesday had its quietest morning rush hour of the year, excluding bank holidays

TomTom data on congestion showed London Wednesday saw its calmest morning rush hour, with the exception of bank holidays

“The assistance is always appreciated, but it doesn’t help us deal with our current problems with cancellations and financial impact of hotels and tourism.

“What we want to see are a reintroduction the support package which was available during lockdown so reinstatement furlough, commitment to extending VAT relief beyond April 1st, preferably reducing it to 5% as he initially saw, and suspension of business rates.

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. Below is a list of the support available to firms.  

– Leisure and hospitality 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. The additional funding will be available to retailers, suppliers, and landlords affected companies. Business grants will be awarded to approximately 200,000 eligible businesses. They will all come from local authorities. More information will follow in the weeks.

– Medical Leave

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. The Government will reintroduce the SSPRS statutory sick payment rebate program. This scheme provides up to two weeks’ Covid-related sick leave per employee for firms that have fewer than 250 employees. All eligible companies will have the option to apply retrospectively starting mid-January.

Cultural recovery funding

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.

– Other parts of the UK

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.

– Prevailing measures

Sunak highlighted many existing financial support programs for businesses. Reduced business rates relief is one of them for retailers, leisure and hospitality firms throughout the remaining financial year. These sectors will see a 50% drop in their business rates in the next financial year (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 rate of VAT for hospitality, at 12.5% is less than that which was 20% before the pandemic. However, this rate has increased from 5% to 110,000 per business in October. The Chancellor also stated that the VAT support has limited benefits when take-offs are significantly reduced. However, it does not provide any benefit when closings occur.


Cash flow is the problem hotels and other hospitality businesses are facing. Many businesses consider December the most important month. It sees them through the first quarter.

‘A £6,000 grant really goes nowhere near protecting the cash position of our members in Best Western and of the wider hospitality industry.’

Surinder Arora (founder and Chairman of Arora Group), the UK’s largest private hotel owner/operator, was not impressed by the offer, which he claimed would be of little benefit to bigger companies.

Today on BBC Radio 4: He said that the Government was in a very difficult situation. Last year, they had to quickly decide whether furlough or business rates would be implemented. Unfortunately, this time they appear to have forgotten to take care of the ball. It is extremely tough.

“And I have heard other speakers talk about’sticking plaster’, but it doesn’t go nearly as far.

‘I really wish and hope the Government would look at this urgently and support businesses such as ours – not just smaller, medium sized businesses, but when you’re talking about £5,000 or £6,000 support for a business.

‘If I was just to mention one of my hotels, for example, the rateable value is nearly £6million a year. You’re paying about 50p in the £1. So the business rates alone for one hotel are about £250,000 a month. Where does £6,000 take year? 

“I had a question about it last week with one of my colleagues and was thinking, “Well surely we wouldn’t be paying full rate now that the business has collapsed.” They said “no” because they looked at the turnover of the company from 2015/16 to calculate the rateable value.

“Well that is impossible, so I feel the Government must help other businesses as well. Because we need people to come in, we thought we could get some VAT relief.

Also, the Government intends to make use of taxpayers’ money to pay for statutory sick leave for Covid-related absences in firms that have fewer than 250 workers.

Cultural organisations in England can also access a further £30 million funding during the winter via the culture recovery fund, the Treasury said.

After a Government trip to California, Mr Sunak announced his resignation. 

But Coral Rose, chairman of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Wholesalers have not received anything with regards of business rates relief since the start of the pandemic in 2020 so we were very much looking forward to Christmas this year being the start of our recovery from 2020 and the losses that we incurred there.

“And we now see that we’re stocking our warehouses in order to have plenty of supply for the busy season that was ahead, which is what we now have in our storage units. Wholesalers bear the burden. However, wholesalers must also try to find what they can sell or clear. Often, this is often done at a fraction of cost. We don’t want it wasted, so we will donate it to Feed The Community or FareShare. We won’t throw out good food.

‘The Chancellor did announce back in March the Covid Additional Relief Fund, a £1.5billion fund, where thanks to the campaigning of the FWD he specifically referenced that wholesalers should be included in the allocation of these monies by the local authorities. 

Tim Rumney, the chief executive of Best Western Hotels in Great Britain

Surinder Arora, founder and chairman of the Arora Group

Tim Rumney (left), chief executive of Best Western Hotels Great Britain said that support doesn’t go far enough. Surinder Arora (right), who is the founder and chairman the Arora Group has been unimpressed by this package

Rishi Sunak has released a £1billion bailout for the hospitality industry to help firms hit by a collapse in Christmas bookings

Rishi Sunak has released a £1billion bailout for the hospitality industry to help firms hit by a collapse in Christmas bookings

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing at Downing Street in London on Wednesday last week

Boris Johnson was Prime Minister during the media briefing in Downing Street London last Wednesday

‘That was in March, they were only released a matter of weeks ago so we’re going through the process of applying for those, and then the extra £102million Additional Restrictions Grant, it has been referenced that it should be allocated to those who supply the hospitality and leisure sectors.

Raji has clearly no idea how our industry’s been affected. Leisure leaders question why gyms are not covered by the grant program and VAT. Omicron economic measures hit the heart of the economy 


Furious gym bosses have slammed Rishi Sunak’s ‘shameful’ Covid financial package as they are left out of the Chancellor’s £1billion bailout.

Leaders in the leisure industry said thousands of business owners are not eligible for £6,000 government grants being handed out to pubs and restaurants as surging Omicron cases hammer the economy.

They warned the Ministers that this programme ignores the overwhelming evidence pointing out the detrimental effects of Plan B on these facilities, and asked them to reconsider their decision.

Sandy Macaskill (founder of Barry’s UK) spoke exclusively to MailOnline today. She claimed that the absence of VAT relief for the health sector ‘demonstrates that the Chancellor does not know how severely our industry was affected’ by the pandemic.

He said that Raji Sunak should be less proud to tell people how many times he uses American online fitness platforms such as Peloton, and spend more time studying the current state of the sector in India.

“We are a family-run business in the UK and we have been denied the VAT relief for hospitality. This shows that the Chancellor doesn’t know how bad our sector has suffered.”

At the weekend, Macaskill, along with other fitness leaders, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister. He stated that February and January are “crucial months” which bring in about 50% of the annual revenue.

Huw Edwards (CEO of ukactive) reacted to Mr Sunak’s support measures by saying that the decision was a’shameful’ and would ‘lead businesses supporting the health and well-being of communities to go to the wall.

In a statement, he warned: ‘This is a health crisis, so to dismiss calls for support from these essential organisations that improve people’s health is inexcusable and will lead to our nation’s physical activity levels – which are already in a lamentable state – becoming even worse.

“Looking to the future, it is important for government to recognize that our sector enters its most vital operating period.

“It must ensure that these facilities can be used by the many millions of Americans who depend upon them. This is especially important as winter approaches and people are more aware of the negative effects of cold weather on their mental and physical health. We ask the government to reconsider.


“But it is a lottery by postcode, so we are waiting for the local authorities in order to allocate those monies. It’s not always fair. Although we appreciate the fact that the Chancellor listened to us, the only thing we ask is for the authorities in our area to quickly act. 

Companies have experienced a drop in takings due to the reduction of Christmas celebrations amid fears over Omicron.  

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, said about the funding: “With the increase in Omicron case, people are rightly exercising greater caution as they go through their lives. This is impacting our hospitality and leisure sectors at what is usually the busiest period of the year.

‘That’s why we’re taking immediate action to help with an extra £1 billion in grants to these industries and reintroducing our Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.

I urge everyone across the nation to take immediate action to ensure vital protection for themselves, their loved ones, and communities.

Sunak stated that hotels and other leisure businesses are now facing significant uncertainty due to the Omicron variation.

‘So we’re stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the culture recovery fund.’

Treasury stated that the additional support is a continuation of existing assistance programs for small businesses.

The devolved administrations will receive around £150 million of funding through the Barnett formula as part of the support announced, the department added.

This includes around £80 million for the Scottish Government, £50 million for the Welsh Government and £25 million for the Northern Ireland Executive.

Gillian Keega from the Health Ministry told Sky News, “Because people still work.” You know what, when I was out with my family for dinner yesterday, not all the tables were full. But most was. People are still out enjoying themselves and you can see that we are trying to find the balance. 

For as little as one third of its annual income, the hospitality industry depends on Christmas sales to keep it going through January and February. Critics welcomed the offer of help but argued the £6,000 grants would not be enough. 

Jonathan Neame (head of Britain’s oldest beer maker Shepherd Neame) said, “We are pleased that the Government is listening, but it seems insufficient to compensate millions of dollars of lost sales.”

Des Gunewardena, who runs the D&D restaurant chain, said £6,000 would not even cover his restaurants’ Christmas decorations. 

He added: ‘Many of our larger restaurants lost £100,000-plus from cancellations last week. The same thing happens again this week, and it’s not clear what will happen on New Year’s Eve.

‘So each of those businesses is facing £200,000-plus losses and has been offered £6,000 which doesn’t even cover the cost of our Christmas decorations.’

The Institute of Directors stated that the assistance will provide ‘welcome relief’ to businesses.

Roger Barker, policy director, stated that businesses need to be assured that the measures they have taken will continue into 2022 despite the winding down of some support programs at Q1 2022 (such as the VAT reductions for hotels and business rates support).

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist of the Confederation of British Industry said that future measures of lockdown must be accompanied by additional support.

She stated that the Government should closely monitor the situation and make sure any restrictions are accompanied by targeted cashflow support.