December 9, 2021 2.00 pm

Clear as mud: Wave of Lincoln Christmas party cancellations after PM announcement

Some say the rules aren’t clear enough!

Lincoln bars, pubs and restaurants have seen a wave of cancellations after the Prime Minister’s latest announcement – although the public haven’t specifically been told by the government to not have Christmas parties.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Wednesday the government’s plans to enact its Plan B measures in response to the growing numbers of new Omicron COVID-19 cases – see the full announcement here. The list of guidance on these changes will be available in the coming days.

Changes include vaccine-only COVID passports becoming mandatory for entry to nightclubs and venues of more than 500 indoors, 4,000 unseated outdoors, and any venue of more than 10,000 capacity, from Wednesday, December 15, subject to parliamentary approval. From Monday, December 13, those who can, will be advised to work from home.

Prior to this, on Friday, December 10, face coverings will become compulsory in most public indoor venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship. It was later clarified that face masks will not be required in hospitality, but there had already been confusion about the latest rules, which is believed to have been partly responsible for some cancellations of social plans and Christmas parties.

The Lincolnite spoke to some local bars and restaurants about cancellations and the impact of the Prime Minister’s announcement on the hospitality industry.

Inside The Botanist. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Rich Pearson, general manager at The Botanist, said: “We’ve definitely had cancellations of tables of fours and two, and bigger tables have been dwindling, in the last couple of weeks.

“Since last night [Wednesday, December 8] we have had 40 cancellations for this month, including Christmas dos.

“It’s a challenge when trying to staff the unit with not knowing how many people we will be expecting. We are also ordering for big parties in advance so last minute cancellations will impact us, and affect all areas of the business.

“The [latest] guidance was not clear enough for what happens if we have a busy bar area late on a Friday/Saturday evening. Should we take the COVID pass at the door for that? If we have live music how many can we let in? What are the restrictions? It is too much of a grey area.

“It’s too short notice for most who are planning to go out on Friday evening for what they can do. It is not the customers fault, they are probably as confused as we are.”

Luis Abruneiras, manager at popular Spanish restaurant Ole Ole, said they have not yet had any cancellations since the announcement, but have had some recent days.

He said: “We have a lot of Christmas parties booked in and a few cancelled, including a group of 18 that initially dropped to eight before cancelling [fully], but we have not seen the effect of the announcement yet. I think the guidance could have been clearer for restaurants.

“We just have to take it day by day, as we have been throughout COVID, and see what happens. For me personally, I don’t think worrying helps and you have to just deal with it day by day and respond to guidance accordingly.

“With face masks we will continue to use common sense. Before the announcement around half the people came in with a mask and half without, we left it down to each person. We all wear them and people respect that.”

The Royal William IV pub at Brayford Wharf North. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

James Dolan is operations director for Ever So Sensible Restaurants, which runs The Royal William IV, Horse & Groom and The Duke William in Lincoln, as well as the Ferry Boat in Washingborough.

He said: “We have had cancellations across a number of sites, including a few groups of 30, and big groups dropping down to small numbers, and lots of small groups, since last night [Wednesday].

“I think it is a bit of panic from people with the initial guidance, and also a change in customer confidence about going out. We do understand the concern of the customers.

“The cancellations impact us from a crucial trading point of view, but there is nothing to panic about for us as a business as we are in a decent position.

“For the government, I think the announcement yesterday was one of the clearer ones compared to previously, but I do understand why some are confused.”

Finn Dillon, senior manager at The Tower Hotel, said they have not yet had any cancellations, but that it is a cause for concern.

He said: “I think always with these announcements they say blanket places, like last night it was cinemas and theatres, but it isn’t that clear and is confusing for the hospitality industry.

“One of the big concerns is the work from home order as this will effect people going out for work lunches. It is discouraging people from going out without saying it.

“Also, if we have to start checking COVID passports there will be an extra cost for having someone on the door for this role.

“There is a concern about future bookings, but we are trying to stay positive for Christmas, and have a tasting session coming up on New Year’s Eve.”

The Engine Shed has issued a statement saying that all customers are required to bring proof of a negative lateral flow or PCR test taken within 48 hours of an event, or proof of double vaccination status.

The Engine Shed’s statement in full.

The latest government announcement comes amid controversy surrounding alleged Christmas parties held at 10 Downing Street in the middle of lockdown last year, with three Greater Lincolnshire MPs giving their verdict on the situation.

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