Omicron in Falkirk: Hospitality trade in ‘vulnerable’ position as restrictions tighten

Hospitality businesses across Falkirk are in a “vulnerable” position as new COVID restrictions threaten to have a profound effect on their crucial Christmas trade.

By Allan Crow & Liam Smillie
Thursday, 16th December 2021, 7:00 am

The rapid spread of the new omicron variant has let to a tightening of the guidance, and hotels, bars and restaurants will all feel the brunt as people prepare for a tough festive season with limits on social contacts.

Nawaz Haq, owner of the Helix hotel in Grangemouth warned: “It looks like we’ll be shutting down over the festive period, and if bookings don’t pick up after Christmas, it won’t even be worth keeping the heating on.”

While no formal ban has been placed on Christmas parties, it is clear many have been cancelled or curtailed as businesses advise staff to defer any get-togethers.

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Nawaz Haq owner of Helix Hotel. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

The hospitality sector has already suffered due to multiple lockdowns, and there are fears of a ‘financial tsunami’ after New Year.

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Mr Haq said: “Unquestionably COVID has had a massive impact on hospitality and continues to do so, particularly for hotels like mine in Grangemouth that rely heavily on travelling trade.

“I can speak for all of hospitality when I say we’re sitting in a very vulnerable situation - any form of restrictive announcement causes uncertainty, and uncertainty causes cancellations.

Brian Flynn of Behind The Wall (Pic: Michael Gillen)

“It looks like we’ll be shutting down over the festive period, and if bookings don’t pick up after Christmas, it won’t even be worth keeping the heating on.”

There is anecdotal evidence of large organisations encouraging staff not to attend Christmas parties which form a substantive core of the sector’s December trade.

People are now also limited to three households, with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging individuals to follow the guidance in a bid to break the transmission of cases.

Pic: Lisa Ferguson

Brian Flynn, who owns Behind the Wall on Melville Street, said: “From what I understand larger organisations like the NHS have been telling people not to attend Christmas parties, which could have an affect on business.

“Larger groups of more than three households seem to be splintering into smaller groups though, and bookings are still going well so we’re remaining hopeful.”

With Christmas just days away, many businesses and organisations will already have booked tables at restaurants and bars and had plans to go on to nightclubs.

Already many are reporting cancellations as the UK and Scottish Government set out its new guidance.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), said: “It is the fear factor. Anything that happens like this, the impact of a new variant, or a rise in cases, then companies jump on it very quickly.”

The organisation is promoting a campaign to keep revellers safe by encouraging people to take a lateral flow test before they visit a bar or restaurant, under the hashtag #flowandgo.

He added: “We want people to enjoy a really good Christmas and they can do that by following measures such as wearing a face mask and taking a lateral flow test.”

Scottish Government ministers now require that all household contacts of someone with the virus to isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status - a ruling which could have a huge impact n the public and private sector.

The new isolation rules also apply to household contacts even if they initially get a negative PCR test.

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