04:47PM, Thursday 16 December 2021
Browns restaurant in Windsor is feeling the strain of Omicron. Photo from Google Maps.
Hospitality venues in Windsor are battling mass Christmas booking cancellations and low customer numbers amid the spread of Omicron.
Although hospitality venues remain open, many are facing cancellations for events such as festive parties following the news about the new variant.
Tighter restrictions on mask-wearing and home working have been brought in by the Government to help curb the spread of Omicron, and publicans are facing dwindling customer numbers as people become wary.
Windsor landlords are also facing a huge drop in international tourist numbers during a time of year which is traditionally busy with this kind of trade, as well as local business.
Claudia Gutulescu is the manager of Browns restaurant in Barry Avenue. She said five groups that were due to visit the eatery today (Friday) have cancelled over COVID fears.
“We have lost lots of business,” she told the Express. “The impact is going to be much more than what we know.
“We started putting down the work for this festive period back in September in terms of planning, hiring staff, ordering everything. But tomorrow, in the space of one hour we had five groups cancelling.”
Claudia added that trade is 40 per cent down on normal Decembers, and added that her staff are working less hours due to the decreased level of service.
“They [the Government] have not closed us down but at the same time we are impacted massively,” Claudia said.
“We totally understand and we stand behind any protection measures they want to impose, but we need a safety net as well, because we are falling in the air.”
The Browns manager called on even more support from Westminster to be forthcoming.
“We need some kind of support and we need to know the Government is thinking proactively about the hospitality business.
“I have to think about my staff – we all have a family, kids and rent to pay. We were expecting a busy time, 40/50 hours a week. At this point we are down to 30 [hours], which is a big impact at an important time of year.”
Nicholas Bayldon-Pritchard owns The Fox and Castle pub in Burfield Rd with his wife Gillian, and said he too is experiencing lower customer numbers and cancellations.
The landlord added that his trade is 40-45 per cent down compared to normal times.
“We’ve certainly had cancellations, and there is no Government support at a time when we should be making the most money,” he said.
“[Trade] was reasonable but it was not great until the announcement [last week] and now it has become poor.
“We are just taking every day by every day. I think there should be a holiday for [business] rates next year, and they should bring the [food] VAT back to five per cent.”
Some landlords have claimed Ministers are striking fear into people, but Nicholas disagreed with this.
“I do not think it is over-the-top or scaremongering – it is reality,” he said.
“We will have to plan to live with this, we just hope the Government steps up to the mark.”
A Government spokesman said: “We have acted early to help control the virus’ spread – while avoiding restrictions by allowing businesses to remain open.
“Our £400billion support package will help businesses into spring and we will continue to respond to the changing path of the virus.”