Omicron fears cause 35% bookings drop at Top 50 Gastropub

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Booking issues: the Parkers Arms in Newton-in-Bowland, Lancashire has seen reservations fall by more than a third
Booking issues: the Parkers Arms in Newton-in-Bowland, Lancashire has seen reservations fall by more than a third

Related tags: Food, Legislation, Top 50 gastropubs, Chef

Christmas has turned “pear-shaped” for Lancashire-based gastropub the Parker’s Arms, with bookings dropping by 35% due to customer fears about the Omicron Covid variant.

December begun on bad footing, with Storm Arwen cutting power at the pub for five days, but it was the Prime Minster’s “bombshell” press statement about the Omicron variant that knocked bookings. 

On 27 November, Boris Johnson announced face masks were to be worn in shops and on public transport, but not in hospitality venues. 

Chef patron of the pub, which is in Newton-in-Bowland, Stosie Madi said: “Within 48 hours of him making that statement, it just started haemorrhaging bookings: we went from being fully booked to being 35% down.” 

Earlier this week, Johnson confirmed the return of working from home, but gave people the go ahead to still attend Christmas parties with colleagues. 

He also announced tough Plan B Covid rules: notably, Covid passports would be enforced for entry at large venues from 15 December and face masks in more indoor settings with the exception of hospitality venues.  

Resilient sector

Madi said if anymore bookings were lost, the team would be lucky to breakeven this month and make the money needed through the festive season to pull through January and February. 

She criticised the Government’s lack of clarity. While she agreed with medical experts that measures were needed to protect public safety, calling the latest Covid advice “absolute utter nonsense, there’s always mixed messages, no clarity, no consistency. 

“What I have an issue with is the way they just make random statements without thinking what the consequences are going to be on the business community, and without helping the business community absorb any of the losses that are incurred when they make these statements. 

“Hospitality is resilient, but blimey, how resilient can we be? How many knocks are we supposed to keep taking? 

“The Government needs to put out a clear set of rules, stick to them, and support the business community.” 

Disheartening impact

Madi urged customers not to cancel unless necessary. “Customer’s bookings are affecting everybody: we have bills to pay, we have wages to pay, budgets are in place to pay costs,” she said. 

She added: “If you do have to cancel, don't ask for your deposit back because we have already costed that and factored that into that week's trading.  

“If you do have to cancel, then don't make the restaurant or the pub pay for it.” 

While major trading days such as bank holidays and Christmas Eve were still fully booked, Madi fears customers were waiting until nearer the time to cancel. 

She said: “It’s very disheartening, because it was looking like it was going to be a great trading month, and we needed that, we needed it to be good. We need the recovery, we need the boost, and it’s very sad, because that’s gone.” 

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