Bars claim they have been 'hung out to dry' over Covid guidance
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
Pubs, bars and clubs have been hit by another wave of cancellations as Covid fears escalate, leading to one shutting up shop and another claiming the Government has "hung them out to dry".
One restaurant in Stowmarket saw 70 people cancel on Saturday night, and another 30 fail to turn up, leaving the 130-cover venue almost deserted.
Other venues are also struggling as fears over the Omicron variant escalate and Government advice remains confusing. While we have been urged to exercise caution when it comes to socialising ahead of Christmas, clubs and pubs remain open and have been offered no financial aid.
In Ipswich, Leyla Edwards, co-owner of The Club in Ipswich, said there had been many no-shows recently, and no Christmas parties had been booked this year because people were worried about having to cancel.
She said: "We have decided to close now until after Christmas, because that way nobody is going to be spreading Covid.
"We are planning to open up on New Year's Eve - we have already spent £2,000 on our New Year's event.
"But now we are worried about whether we are going to lose the event if there are new restrictions and we have to shut down."
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There are rumours of a further tightening of restrictions after Christmas and Ms Edwards said there had been a good turnout at the weekend, adding: "I think everybody panicked and wanted to go out while they could."
However, the new requirement for venues to check vaccine passports had caused problems.
Ms Edwards said not enough lateral flow tests had been issued to the club, and people who had taken a test that day and received an email had not been issued with the right NHS codes to scan.
Charlie Garnish, general manager at The Maltings in Stowmarket, said its two venues, the Mill Bar and Grill and Carbon nightclub, had both been hard-hit by fears over Omicron.
"At the restaurant, we have space for about 130 people, and we lost about 100 people on Saturday. It was 30 due to no-shows and 70 due to cancellations."
Mr Garnish said there was a fresh surge in customers cancelling every time the government made an announcement about Covid.
"The minute Boris makes an announcement, our inbox fills up with cancellations."
He added: "Our staff have had to eat a lot of turkey dinners."
Mr Garnish said Carbon nightclub was going ahead with its New Year's Eve event but had taken a difficult decision to cancel the casino night element, because of the uncertainty over whether further restrictions or a lockdown would be introduced.
The club was busy this weekend, he said, but added: "It was like a normal Saturday rather than the Saturday before Christmas, which would normally be twice as busy."
The new vaccine passports also caused problems at Carbon. Mr Garnish said they were pleased to see measures to keep people safe, but the technology didn't work properly.
"People were all finding that the NHS app crashed, because there were so many people trying to use it."
Wiff Waff Sports Bar in Key Street, Ipswich, posted an "open message in support of all local and independent businesses" on Facebook about the problems facing hospitality.
They said: "Hospitality has always done everything asked of them and has been proven to be one of the most Covid secure industries in the country.
"However we remain one of the most vulnerable to permanent closure as we reel from the restrictions and the constant messaging, damaging consumer confidence.
"We respect all guests who feel vulnerable at these difficult times, but would like to reassure everyone that all measures over and above current legislation is being taken.
"Our government has reiterated that no financial help will be given. We have been hung out to dry.
"Many local pubs and businesses will undoubtedly be having their last Christmas."
The bar urged everyone to support independent and local businesses as much as they could.