'They're scared to come out': Middlesbrough restaurant to close down due to Christmas cancellations

A Middlesbrough restaurant will close its doors for good due to Christmas party cancellations and reduced footfall amid a surge in Covid cases.

The White Feather opened just three months before lockdown was first imposed in 2020.

Its owner Alan Chapman had hoped a thriving Christmas period would pave the path to recovery.

But as daily cases hit record highs - driven in part by the Omicron variant - his beloved Norfolk Place business will close permanently on 2 January, leaving another Middlesbrough unit vacant and his staff jobless.

"They just ring and cancel saying their family’s scared to come out," Alan says of the cancellations.

In a bid to keep the White Feather alive, Alan has taken out over £45,000 in loans - every penny of which is yet to be repaid.

He told ITV News Tyne Tees he pumps £3,000 weekly into the business to keep staff on, which ultimately proved futile.

Team members like the restaurant's manager Rachael Milburn are now on the hunt for new jobs.

Across the region, those in the hospitality industry are calling on the government to help them.

They say they're experiencing a steep drop in footfall after both the Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer urged people to be cautious in their social interactions in the run-up to Christmas.

Although there is nothing in the rules keeping people from visiting pubs and restaurants, some events in the region have been cancelled and many venues like the White Feather are reporting a drop in visitors.

The industry trade body for hospitality is warning takings over the Christmas period are likely to be down by 40%.

Six of our region's MP's spoke in Parliament yesterday expressing their fears about businesses in their constituencies.

Some members of the hospitality are remaining optimistic but there are calls for help.

The prime minister had this to say on the matter when he spoke on Thursday, "We've kept businesses going throughout the crisis with more than £400 billion worth of support,"

"We'll continue to support business with the Covid recovery loans, with business rate reductions, with VAT reductions, and the best thing we can do is make sure that we get back to normality as fast as possible by getting boosted now.

"We're offering a package and we already have measures in place, supporting businesses through business rate relief, through VAT reductions, the loans that I've described, all that is there, but what we're also saying is that we want to keep businesses going, keep businesses open, as we have done for a long time now through the vaccination programme, and the best way to get back to normality is to get boosted now."

A Treasury spokesperson said: "As we have done throughout the pandemic, we are closely monitoring the impact of the virus on the economy - and particularly the hospitality sector - which is why the Chancellor is meeting with representatives from the industry today.

"Our £400 billion Covid support package will continue to help businesses well into spring next year, and of course we will continue to respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus.