Omicron variant: Hospitality help 'too late' for Leeds bar forced to close over coronavirus fears

An announcement of support for the hospitality industry has come too late for a bar in Leeds which has decided to close during the festive season due to low footfall, because of concerns over coronavirus.

Brew York has had to close its Leeds bar until after the new year because of a low number of visitors last week.

They have said that the government's confusing and indecisive action on Covid restrictions are to blame.

John McClure director of Bar Operations at Brew York said: "Over the last five days we've just seen numbers drop completely and it's just a situation where - it sounds daft - we're saving money not opening. It's an impossible situation."

Rishi Sunak has today announced three new measures to help the arts and hospitality industries get through what should be their busiest period, as restaurants' bookings plummet and theatres are forced to close amid a sharp increase in Covid cases.

From Tuesday, small and medium-sized companies - those with less than 250 employees - can be reimbursed by the government for the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences of up to two weeks per employee, said the chancellor.

"Eligible" hospitality and leisure businesses "impacted by Omicron" will be able to apply for a one-off cash grant of up to £6,000, said Mr Sunak. However, it is not yet clear how employers will be asked to prove how they have been affected.

Meanwhile Will McMahon, who is the manager of The Old Grindstone in Sheffield says many pubs and bars are facing staffing challenges in the run-up to Christmas because of fears around the new Omicron variant.

New restrictions are unlikely to stop Christmas celebrations this week but Boris Johnson has urged caution amid speculation further measures will be needed to halt the spread of the Omicron variant.

After a special two-hour meeting of the Cabinet on Monday, the Prime Minister said the Government needs to be clearer about the rate of hospital admissions associated with Omicron, and the effectiveness of vaccines against it, before imposing additional measures in England to prevent the spread of the virus.