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Coronavirus / Lerwick restaurant loses more than 200 covers since start of month amid Christmas party Covid warning

Stuart Fox of The Dowry. Photo: Stephen Mercer

A LOCAL restaurant and bar says it has been begun to see more Christmas bookings being cancelled in light of public health advice to postpone festive parties.

Within an hour of first minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterating the advice during a media briefing at Friday lunchtime, The Dowry in Lerwick had three cancellations – which represented more than 80 people.

Business owner Stuart Fox acknowledged that “it is what it is”, adding more than 200 covers have now been lost since the start of December.

Suggesting some in the community had decided against festive parties before this week’s public health advice, the Dowry has had larger groups cancel throughout the month.

Fox, however, said it was “entirely understandable” that groups were thinking about postponing.

He added that the plan is to move some existing bookings into the upstairs function room, freeing up tables in the restaurant and “hopefully minimising any potential financial loss”.

The advice around Christmas parties comes around concern over the new Omicron variant of Covid, which is more easily spread and is expected to see case numbers rise in Scotland.

Meanwhile the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has stressed the need for government to support sectors like hospitality which continue to be affected by Covid guidance and advice, and potentially knocked customer confidence.

Highlands and Islands development manager David Richardson said: “Clearly, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant is worrying us all, and while health experts establish the precise level of the threat, and politicians agonise over how best to protect the country, many businesses, and especially those in tourism and hospitality, retail and other customer-facing trades, will be deeply worried at what is happening.

“For it’s not just about deferring Christmas parties, extremely damaging to the businesses concerned though this be. It’s about the way the general public reacts to the words of the first minister, Public Health Scotland and others.

“What impact will they have on the desire of shoppers and others to go out and about in the run-up to Christmas, and on the many businesses that depend on them?

“Small, independent Highlands & Islands businesses have travelled a long and rocky road since March 2020, and until a few short weeks ago they were hoping that life was returning to near normal and that 2022 would be the year to rebuild.

“This is now threatened and, while understanding that politicians are of course responsible for safeguarding society and protecting the NHS, they will be preying that they understand just how precarious the position for many businesses is and that they will ensure that their decisions are always appropriate and proportionate.

“Should the worst happen, and further restrictions have to be introduced, they will also trust that governments will step in with fresh financial support as necessary.”