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Businesses across Tayside and Fife call for support after Covid guidance sparks wave of cancellations

The Old Brewhouse, Arbroath
The Old Brewhouse, Arbroath

Pubs and restaurants across Tayside and Fife have taken a blow this weekend after new Covid guidance sparked a chain of cancellations.

The guidance, which was laid out by the Scottish Government on Friday, advises people to delay their Christmas parties until January.

The announcement caused a wave of booking cancellations across the country, leaving businesses with surplus stock and empty tables at what is usually the busiest time of year.

£5,000 lost to cancellations

Steve Robertson, who has run The View Restaurant in Wormit for 10 years, claims the cancellations have cost him £5,000.

He said: “I had two or three medium-sized bookings cancelled.

“We’ve noticed that numbers have started falling off bookings. So we started off with a function for 46 people on Saturday, we ended up doing 36.

The View Restaurant in Wormit.

“It started off with one person not coming, then another, and then more.

“Two of them were isolating but the other six said that they just weren’t comfortable with coming out. So, people’s thought patterns have changed in terms of getting more jittery or more anxious about coming out because of the comments from the first minister last week.

“We’ve lost one in January as well, a birthday party, she just said she didn’t want to do it as she didn’t want to invite people then have 15 people turn up instead of 50.

“She’d booked some entertainment, a casino night, so the roll on effect is not just us, but that casino company as well, they’ve lost out on that as well.

“We had another couple of bookings, one of them was a school booking for 18, they cancelled altogether.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“I think some people may be waiting what (Nicola Sturgeon) says on Tuesday.

“We might get another wave of cancellations, you don’t know. We still pick up bookings week-to-week, so you wonder, is the phone just not going to ring?

“In the space of a week we’ve probably lost about £5,000. Looking ahead, it’s probably more when you factor in the cancellation in January.

“So in the space of three days we’ve lost around about £5,000, over a three-week period.

“If she had come out and said, ‘Right, I advise you to stop shopping in Tesco or to stop buying cars from Volkswagen’, there would have been uproar.

“But it seems ok for her to say, ‘I’m going to advise you to stop going out for Christmas meals’ and just leaving the industry to deal with it. It’s just shambolic.”

‘We have noticed quite a few cancellations’

Businesses in Angus have also been hit by the cancellations.

Mandy Swankie, a front of house supervisor at the The Old Brewhouse in Arbroath High Street, said: “We have noticed quite a few cancellations since the talks on television of possible restrictions coming into play, particularly on some of the larger bookings that we have.

“We have a Christmas menu and are open up until Christmas Eve, closed for Christmas Day then reopen on Boxing Day.

The Old Brewhouse.

“It’s been meal cancellations we’ve seen. There has been about five up until now, but they were larger parties, groups of 15-29 people.

“They might spend about £20 a head per-person so it would be into four figures now we’ve lost. I think we could possibly see more too, unfortunately.

“We were definitely looking towards this Christmas being the start of normality, going back to restrictions being lessened. Last year there were still some restrictions in place, so this year obviously we’ve been kind of hit with this last minute.

“It is a shame when you’ve been waiting for this time of year to come round to see the cancellations come in.”

‘They need to give us some kind of support’

However, it’s not just cancellations that have left pubs hurting.

Mark Fairley, assistant manager at Perth’s Old Ship Inn, claims fears over Covid have also caused a slump in footfall.

“There’s been a lot less people in than we would usually see at this time of year,” he said.

“Of course, there’s still a quite a few people, but definitely less than what we would get two years ago.

“It would make sense for the government to provide some sort of support.

“If they’re telling people not to go out to pubs then they need to give us some kind of support.”

Businesses outside of the licensed trade are also losing out due to the new guidance.

Ross Turriff, owner of Jessie’s Kitchen in Broughty Ferry, said: “We have seen some cancellations, especially on our festive afternoon teas.

“I don’t think we’ve had it as bad as some other places but it’s certainly made us feel a lot more nervous.

Garden Centres Dundee reopening
Ross Turriff.

“It’s bringing up a lot of memories of last year.

“Most places have already bought a lot of stock and suppliers are looking to be paid up front, so if we have a bunch of people cancelling the week before Christmas where does that leave us? Where does it leave our staff?

“It would just be good to see some kind of support.”

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