"Sleepless nights": Sheffield's pubs face uncertain future ahead of New Year's Eve
Concern among the public over the spread of Omicron is widespread, causing uncertainty among pubs over whether people will turn up to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Central government last week announced a fund worth up to £6,000 per business to help the hospitality sector. However, the accompanying lack of definite advice, along with the shortfall in financial support, has left landlords and landladies in the lurch.
Now, pubs stand to lose even more as owners predict a quiet New Year’s Eve caused by Government advice to the public to be ‘cautious’.
Business owners have slammed this advice. They say it effectively encourages people to stay in, and simultaneously avoids making any commitment to supporting businesses who may lose custom, as closure has not been enforced.
The Brother's Arms pub in Heeley does not have a ticketed evening for New Year's Eve and opens its doors to everyone.
On a busy December 31, the pub needs six staff who are serving constantly though the night - but manager Emma France doesn't think it will go that far this year.
She said: "I don't know how New Year's Eve is going to go.
"People don't know if there are going to be more restrictions in January - will that make more people come out because it's one of the last opportunities? Or will they stay home to avoid risk?
"Before Christmas there was a massive drop off due to people not wanting to catch it and having to self-isolate for Christmas.
"I'm not expecting it to be overly busy, at least not what we normally experience."
Other pub owners have expressed concern that Omicron could have an impact far beyond the beginning of the new year – especially if further restrictions are brought in.
The current lack of guidance – deemed ‘wish washy’ by some of Sheffield’s hospitality businesses – has left those who run pubs shouldering the decision on what is best for their staff as well as customers.
Tom Harrington, runs three Sheffield venues: the Beer Engine, the Old Workshop and the Tramshed.
Taking into consideration the impact of Covid on staff, the running costs for the night and the risk of not making the revenue back, he and his teams have taken the decision to close the Beer Engine on New Year's Eve.
He said: "I'm nervous because the way forward is so unclear from the Government.
"If I could afford to, I would just shut now for all of January, just because it's so hard to encourage staff and keep morale up during all this uncertainty.
"I'm not opening the Beer Engine on New Year's Eve, but then the next day there's a football match, so do I open for the football match to try and get some revenue?
"What's important to me is to keep staff employed, but we're having to do that without revenue or furlough.
"It's difficult as well to encourage staff and keep morale up.
"How are you meant to pay staff with no revenue and no furlough scheme?
"No one except the big companies are going to get the full £6,000 in grants. What my three businesses would get would not even be a night's takings.
"January is a terrible month for takings anyway, when we've had a fall in business in December, which is meant to be one of your busiest months to build up some money.
"I just don't know. I've had some sleepless nights.
"It's not just New Year's, but January as well. Will people come out? Will they spend money? Will there be social distancing and table service?"