A hospitality boss has criticised the government's latest Covid support package, saying it will cover just a fraction of nearly £1m in lost takings at what should be his busiest time of year.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday unveiled a £1bn package of help for hospitality firms left struggling by a raft of cancellations as consumer confidence plummets in the face of rising cases of the Omicron variant.
They include reimbursement for sick pay for eligible businesses, and one-off grants of up to £6,000 for firms able to prove they have been affected by Omicron.
But Peter Borg-Neal, who runs 36 pubs in his Oakman Inns chain, said it was already too little, too late, after weeks of government messaging that he said had "destroyed consumer confidence".
"We've had a huge number of cancellations. Pretty much all of our corporate Christmas parties, loads of private ones," he said. "You're probably talking about losing sales of £20,000-25,000 per pub already with much more to come. And we still don't know about Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve which are key trading days."
Mr Borg-Neal, who has pubs across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, described the past few weeks as "very painful" and said the government rescue package was "pretty inadequate".
"We are a business that will be able to ride this out but it will mean that we won't be able to invest next year. We won't be able to get the economy moving as we'll have used up our cash," Mr Borg-Neal told ITV News.
"For lots of my colleagues in the industry this could be terminal. Businesses have been hanging on to get to Christmas in the hope of a typical good Christmas period and it's all been ruined because the messaging has destroyed consumer confidence and everyone's cancelled."
Pubs and restaurants have been sounding the alarm for weeks in the face of mounting cancellations and rising costs. Earlier this month, one pub in Cambridge reported bookings for 700 people had been cancelled in a matter of days.
Hospitality UK reported many businesses have already lost between 40-60% of their trade during December.
The new funds are intended to support in the arts and culture sector as well, such as theatres which have had to cancel performances.