Surviving Omicron

15th December, 2021 in Industry

As we find ourselves here in December 2021, Omicron threatens to ruin Christmas faster than Sean Lock's 'Carrot In A Box' and it feels as if we are living through a real life rerun of the old Bill Murray classic 'Groundhog Day' (yes, that's two pop culture references in a single paragraph).

As the UK prepares to enter ‘Plan B’ (I’m sure Ben Drew is super happy about that choice of name), and the Prime Minister with his fellow party goes are busily planning their next round of cheese and wine between lines of coke in the disabled toilets next to the PM’s office, the hospitality industry is left to pick up the pieces of confusing communication, poor strategy, and some deeply illogical regulations.

Parliament has approved Covid passes for venues of a certain size, or ones that have a dance floor (tho if they close it off then no pass required) or places that serve alcohol after 1am. There has been little guidance if unvaccinated people have to be kicked out before 1am, or whether the venue has restrict all entry to the vaccinated.

One of my favourite pieces on the current situation is from the consistently sharp pen of Simon Webster from Barlife UK:

Omicron is obviously a concern, and everyone needs to be on alert to make sure we don’t get overwhelmed, but once again hospitality is being, all be it less obviously, singled out. In case anyone reading this is unsure if this is true then I’ll just point you to the last of the events exempt from the Covid Pass rules – events in private houses (including private gardens) where people do not have to pay or hold a ticket to enter. You can dance your ass of in your home with up to 499 other people at 3am, drinking booze from a supermarket with no-one cleaning fucking anything at any point and you’ll be fine folks.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, yep No 10 Downing Street is a private house.

I make light of these ridiculous regulations, but they appear to be no more than a random response from a government desperate to be seen to do something, and distract us from the party scandals. It feels like lockdown by stealth, and once again, it’s the hospitality industry that bears the brunt of the governments Covid response. Only this time, as there has been no formal requirements for venues to close, there is no financial support from the nation's sugar daddy Rishi Sunak. We’re about to go into the quietest 2 months of the year, off the back of a December where UK Hospitality are predicting a 40% loss in trade.

With cancellations piling up in bars and restaurants around the country (you might have seen the Instagram post from chef Tom Kerridge), unfortunately things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better. Hospitality NEEDS financial support from the Government, there’s no two ways about it.

What can we do to support our industry?

  • This may sound trite, but please, please write to your local MP demanding financial support for hospitality.
  • Continue to frequent your favourite hospitality establishments where possible in a responsible and Covid safe manner.
  • Purchase online meals, cocktails, swag, gift vouchers and accessories for those outlets that have an ecommerce presence, so they can keep at least a little money coming in.
  • If you must cancel your booking, see if you can pay for it upfront and reschedule it to sometime next year.
  • Call your favourite bar and restaurant and see how you can help them.
  • Donate to organisations such as Hospitality Action or The Drinks Trust who provide financial support to hospitality businesses across the UK.

I’m not optimistic about what’s going to happen this winter, and I fear that it’s going to be a lot more difficult than last winter. We have seen in the past 2 years just how important hospitality is to the health of a functioning society, it’s where we come to meet, to socialise, to connect, to find love, to find solace, to find friends, to celebrate, to commiserate, to debate and conversate. Without our bars and restaurants, the world can seem like a bleak, unenjoyable, and soulless place.

So please, please, let’s all get out there and support our favourite restaurants and bars and help them through these choppy winter waters.