Omicron in Fife: Hospitality facing 'financially disastrous' future as cancellations soar

Hospitality businesses across Fife have warned of “financially disastrous” consequences as new COVID restrictions threaten to have a profound effect on their crucial Christmas trade.

The raid spread of the new omicron variant has let to a tightening of the guidance, and hotels, bars and restaurants will all feel the brunt as people prepare for a tough festive season with limited social contacts.

While no formal ban has been placed on Christmas parties, it is clear many have been cancelled as businesses advise staff to defer any get-togethers.

The hospitality sector has already suffered due to multiple lockdowns, and there are fears of a ‘financial tsunami’ after New Year.

Pic: Lisa Ferguson

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Fife’s Licensed Trade Association has warned of “far reaching” consequences if bookings continued to be cancelled.

Brian Gordon, president, said: "Everyone in the trade is worried about this new variant, as are others I’m sure.

"Being selfish, however, will not help anyone.”And he warned: “The effects of cancellations will be far reaching and very disastrous financially, but weighed up against illness and life changing consequences most realise cooperation and compliance comes first.

Woodside Hotel, Aberdour

“I have heard of many cancellations including a large supermarket chain advising staff not to attend parties even before Boris Johnson spoke on the subject.

"If we are forced to surrender celebrations and gatherings, I truly hope the sacrifices are followed by all and not just some.

"I just hope we all get through this safely."

With Christmas just days away, many businesses will already have booked tables at restaurants and bars and had plans to go on to nightclubs.

The sector has reported anecdotal evidence of large organisations encouraging staff not to attend Christmas parties which form a substantive core of its December trade.

John McTaggart, who owns the The Woodside Hotel in Aberdour, said it felt like groundhog day.

"We've had all of our Christmas and New Year bookings cancelled,” he said.

"As we're an exclusive use venue, we thought we had future-proofed ourselves going forward, but as only three households can meet this is not the case anymore.

"I actually felt better about it all in March 2020, but as they are now saying that there will be no furlough scheme I have real fears as we have staff to pay.

"We've already had some key members of staff leave to secure more stable jobs that aren't in the hospitality industry, and we're finding it difficult to recruit more in their place.

"There is a lot of uncertainty right now. You never know when the next wave will come.

"I'm not blaming anyone - it is what it is.

"The festive period is our busiest time of the year, and we had a lot of great bookings - it's a real sore one."

It was a similar picture at Giovanni’s, one of Kirkcaldy’s most established restaurants.

Charlotte Dales, manager, said: "Since the First Minister’s speech saying that only three households can meet, we've had nothing but cancellations.

"Christmas is the busiest time of the year for us with Christmas Eve being our busiest night of the year.

"We're definitely expecting more cancellations in the coming days.

"We might have to cut staff hours, but we'll do everything in our power to make sure they keep their jobs.

"I'm really dreading any further restrictions.”

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