Pub Group Fullers is to close some of its its estate “indefinitely” citing the government’s “pitiful” support amid the Omicron chaos.
Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller Smith and Turner, blasted the “mixed messages” the government has been sending out to punters in the run-up to Christmas. He said pubs have been hit with a ‘double whammy’ of nervous customers cancelling bookings and too many staff having to isolate with Covid-19.
While pubs and restaurants have not been ordered to close or limit group numbers, Mr Emeny says the Government’s messaging is putting customers off.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing an intense 48 hours to decide if he will enforce new coronavirus restrictions before Christmas as he faces a mounting Cabinet revolt over a possible further crackdown to slow the spread of Omicron.
Despite it being the busiest time of the year, Mr Emeny says he’s been left ‘no option’ but to close 20 Fuller’s pubs.
Speaking on Sky News, he said: ‘Operating a large number of units in central London, we’re really in the eye of this hospitality challenge.
‘Being out last night in the centre, it was very, very quiet. The reality in London is that our sales are currently down between 60 and 80%
‘As a result, we are closing 20 of what would have been our busiest sites indefinitely.’
He said the government’s support for his struggling industry has been ‘pitiful’, adding that there’s ‘very little financial support for anybody at the moment’.
Mr Emeny added: ‘Engagement with the sector over the last three weeks has been very, very late – and very rushed.’
He said ‘mixed messages’ from the Government over the Omicron strain are ‘clearly not helpful’ for the hospitality industry.
The businessman added: ‘It’s confusing customers, and it’s causing a lot of operational difficulties.
‘But clearly the government are being given scientific advice and are attempting to navigate this current crisis.
‘But the only way through this though, having given those mixed messages to customers, is to give financial support to the sector. The country needs a vibrant hospitality sector coming out of this.
‘My worry for everybody at the moment is those staff that aren’t going to be working on Monday who have got families to feed over the Christmas period, who are working for companies who now have zero sales. ‘Who is going to pay them? How are they going to pay their rent, and how are they going to live over the coming weeks and months?’
According to reports the Prime Minister is believed to be considering three options to deal with the rapid spread of Omicron, the lowest level of intervention consisting of advice to limit household mixing indoors, the second level would see mandatory restrictions on household mixing, the return of social distancing and an 8pm curfew for pubs and restaurants while the third and harshest level would see a return to something close to a full lockdown.