Plan B: Cambridgeshire restaurant loses 30 bookings in under an hour as 700 cancel over Covid rules

Pasquale Benedetto, owner of The Plough at Coton in Cambridgeshire
Pasquale Benedetto has run The Plough at Coton in Cambridgeshire since 2015 Credit:

A restaurant owner claims his business has been hit by cancellations for more than 700 people in the weeks before Christmas, following the introduction of tighter coronavirus restrictions and the government's Plan B.

Pasquale Benedetto said his Cambridgeshire gastropub was struck with 30 cancellations in 40 minutes on Friday morning alone, after Boris Johnson announced restrictions were being tightened.

The restaurateur warned the latest rule-change risked "killing hospitality" as lost bookings at The Plough gastropub and restaurant at Coton could mean he is forced to cut back on staffing hours.

He has also lost a 50-person gathering due to be held in the venue's marquee, Mr Benedetto told ITV News Anglia.

The Plough at Coton in Cambridgeshire has seen a raft of cancellations in recent days Credit: ITV News Anglia

He said that while customer safety was his priority, and the business was taking every measure to comply with regulations, the tightening of restrictions had dealt a major blow to customer confidence ahead of the busy Christmas period.

"It started last week when the health secretary said we should be careful and started to come to a head after the weekend," he said.

"There was a big increase in cancellations on Monday and Tuesday and by Wednesday after the Boris announcement it was huge."

The new measures for England announced by the prime minister on Wednesday - dubbed Plan B - include working from home, the return of face masks in most indoor venues, and the introduction of so-called vaccine passports.

And though face coverings are not being made mandatory in pubs and restaurants or other places "where it is not practical", Mr Benedetto said the impact on the public mood of reimposing restrictions had reminded him of the first wave of the pandemic.

"It was exactly what happened in March 2020," he said. "I've been worried about autumn and winter ever since we reopened. I've been preparing for this.

"We will get through it but I've got to be careful. It will mean cutting back on staff hours - that's the reality."

There had already been signs of public anxiety after the Prime Minister announced the return of mandatory face masks in shops and public transport at the end of November, in response to the threat of the new Omicron variant.

One Peterborough restaurant owner described a spate of cancellations.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Benedetto said the cancellations had gone from tables of two and four "to 10s, 12s and 20s" while the pub was also having to cope with "VAT on food up, furlough gone, rates kicking in and costs soaring".

"We are doing everything we can and everything we need to to keep people safe," he said.

"But there is not that reassurance for people."

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