The Leeds pub facing 900 cancellations as Omicron threatens Christmas

Owners of The Mustard Pot in Chapel Allerton says it would normally have around 400 people a night over the Christmas period. Credit: ITV Calendar

An award-winning pub in Leeds says it's seen over 900 cancellations in the last two weeks, as the latest Covid strain threatens to shut down parts of the hospitality economy.

Owners of The Mustard Pot in Chapel Allerton says it would normally have around 400 people a night over the Christmas period.

Landlady Nicole Moxham said on Wednesday they only had two tables booked.

It comes as hospitality firms are ramping up calls for support from the government as the spread of Omicron and health warnings wreak havoc on hard-hit pubs and restaurants.

UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls has made a plea for business rates relief and VAT discounts to be extended, warning that the sector has been knocked harder than expected by the new restrictions.

She said hospitality sales have already plunged by more than a third over the last 10 days with £2 billion of trade already lost in December.

The CBI has also urged the Government to provide support "in lockstep with future restrictions".

Credit: PA

The rapid rise in Covid-19 cases as the Omicron variant sweeps the country has led to a surge in booking cancellations.

Consumer confidence has been knocked by new restrictions and increasing health warnings.

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has advised Britons to consider cutting back socialising around Christmas, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should "think carefully" before going out to celebrate.

Ms Nicholls said: "It is quite clear that the impact of the current guidance and restrictions has been more hard hitting on an already beleaguered hospitality sector than expected."

She added: "It is imperative that local authorities release the discretionary grants and rate relief they have to affected businesses immediately and VAT and rate relief support is extended and not turned off prematurely."

The boss of pub group Young's has called for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to "show up" and re-introduce a lower rate of VAT and business rates holidays.

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of the 220-strong group, told the PA news agency: "I have no idea where Rishi Sunak is right now but he needs to show up and give the industry his backing.

"There are thousands of businesses - not just pubs - that could collapse in January if the current situation isn't partnered with proper financial support.

"We have given up on this being the fantastic Christmas we had hoped, but will obviously continue to do our all for all the customers still with bookings.

"We have seen similar to everyone else. We saw 30%-plus cancellations last week and that's looking higher this week and next week."

Credit: The Mediterranean Restaurant, Llandudno

Firms across the sector are asking for an extension of the discounted 12.5% VAT, which is due to revert back to the original 20% rate in March next year, with UKHospitality also pushing for a deferral of business rates.

Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund said Chancellor Rishi Sunak should be "ready to deploy" a mini form of furlough support in the event of widespread closures to help sectors suffering the most, such as hospitality.