Covid: Restaurants, pubs and bars ‘lost average of £10,000 in week before Christmas’

Near-empty restaurants have been a feature of the festive period. Credit: PA

Pubs, bars and restaurants lost an average of £10,335 in the week leading up to Christmas, as Covid-19 fears, isolation and work from home guidance all hit the hospitality industry hard.

On Christmas Day takings were down 60% compared with 2019, new figures from industry body UKHospitality found.

The average losses are above the maximum £6,000 cash grants offered to each affected venue by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of his £1 billion fund announced last week.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak defended the Nationalo Insurance hike as ‘the responsible thing to do’ Credit: PA

City centre and London venues were hardest hit, with the rise of the Omicron variant of coronavirus and new work from home instructions knocking pre-Christmas celebrations badly, the trade body said.

The latest figures have led to calls from the organisation for the government to ensure more support is offered to the sector as it struggles to recover from previous lockdowns and Covid rules.

By comparison, data from the weeks prior to Omicron emerging showed average sales had been at 98% of pre-pandemic levels, leading many to hope for a successful festive period.

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December is typically equal to three months’ worth of trading, UKHospitality said, meaning the recovery in the sector and the economy more broadly could now take far longer as a result of the latest variant.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses have been hit hard during a key trading period – and this after missing out on the crucial Christmas and New Year sales last year.

“Restrictions must be kept to a minimum and must be lifted as quickly as possible to help an already beleaguered sector or many will simply not survive – and those who do make it through face a return to 20% VAT in April.

“In order to help the industry recover and return to growth, the government must commit to keeping VAT at 12.5% and offering enhanced rates relief.

“Further support will also be needed should additional restrictions be imposed or the tougher measures in Scotland and Wales be retained into 2022.”