© Stephen Lock/ i-ImagesA near empty Waterloo station at 7am today as commuters stayed at home after Boris Johnson's work from home guidance frustrated City bosses
Pubs have lost 'all their Christmas
bookings virtually overnight', hospitality bosses said today - as the boss of Wetherspoons lashed out at ministers for pursuing 'lockdown by stealth'.
Bosses said government warnings about the threat of Omicron
and new working from home guidance had persuaded many punters that it wasn't worth going ahead with their festive gatherings.
hotel told MailOnline it was expecting £100,000 worth of losses from cancelled events, rooms and covers - and said many staff were fearing for their jobs given the extent the industry relies on a lucrative Christmas period.
In a trading update, Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin warned government restrictions could push it into a loss in the first six months of the year.'For reasons best known to themselves, perhaps in order to encourage more vaccinations, the UK government and its advisers are creating an entirely different and more frightening impression of the variant, which appears to be at odds with the South African experience,' he said.The nation was heading towards 'a lockdown by stealth', he added.
Pubs have been badly hit, particularly those in town centres or who rely on commuters.
Gary Murphy, director of the Campaign for Pubs, told MailOnline: 'It's a massive problem all over the country.'Quite clearly the government's message is to cut down on socialising, so inevitably a lot of firms are cancelling parties and individuals are deciding they are uncomfortable with going out.
'I've seen pubs that have lost all of their bookings virtually overnight, particularly those in town centres. Every time Boris Johnson goes on the TV and announces new restrictions people get more worried.'
Mark Fuller, CEO of Karma Sanctum Soho, a boutique 30-bedroom hotel which includes a bar and restaurant, said he had seen up to £50,000 worth of Christmas events cancelled.
He told MailOnline: 'All our events have been cancelled. We are also seeing very, very large last minute cancellations for dinners and hotel rooms.'Overall we're looking at least £100,000 worth of losses compared to 2019, which is a real dagger in the heart when there was no 2020.
'Talking to my other friends in the industry events are getting cancelled left right and centre.
Emma Sweet, marketing manager at the Brakspear group of pubs, said its 130 premises had received hundreds of cancellations after the announcement. Pictured is a Brakspear pub in Brixton, south London
'What was going to be a great Christmas has now turned into a complete and utter damp squib.
'People are worried for their jobs, because the hospitality industry is hugely reliant on Christmas and if you don't have a good one there are big questions about what is going to happen in January.
'I understand why people don't want to risk it so I'm certainly not angry at them. But we're not seeing any support from the government.'
Chris Hanson, who runs Blend Kitchen in Sheffield, said he had lost of 30% of his bookings so far.
'The loss to city footfall is dramatic for our business and we are already seeing cancellations,' he said.
'The government needs to step in to help city businesses right now who are losing trade at this key time.
'We are an employer and use local suppliers so the impact on lives and livelihoods is significant - especially as we are a social enterprise too.'
Chris Christopher owns The Pump, a small family-run business in Bolsover specialising in Christmas afternoon teas and dinners.
He said: 'We were in a perilous position anyway after a tough year for trading being shut for months and months. We are still running at a lower capacity to keep social distancing and support our customers.'So it still wasn't back to normal anyway and we have lost about a third of bookings so far. Every day, people are getting more concerned. We take deposits for bookings, normally these are non-refundable, but we are refunding as we feel bad for our customers and so we are losing out completely.
'Our customers are understandably cautious of the situation with no reassurance and mixed messages. What would really help is the government issuing guidance and more clarity to customers and businesses.'
Ian Parker, landlord of The Cock near Macclesfield, said he had been 'flooded with cancellations' and begged Britons to support their local.
'Please stay safe, order free tests and use them, but also resume your lives - the survival of your local pub depends on you.'
One venue in Manchester said they had also been hit by cancellations but praised one group who agreed to pay up anyway.
© MEN MediaThree Little Words bar said they had also been hit by cancellations but praised one group who agreed to pay up anyway
Fiona King, who works for the Three Little Words bar and restaurant in Manchester city centre, said: 'Cancellations are absolutely s***e, but MASSIVE love to the party that cancelled, then still paid for their pre-ordered food, which they collected and donated to a homeless kitchen.'
Footfall in London's West End remains 30% down on pre-pandemic levels.
UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said: 'The Government's official advice since the arrival of Omicron and the introduction of Plan B, has been very clear: go ahead with Christmas and New Year parties as long as you are not showing any symptoms of Covid.
'Hospitality operators have invested heavily to ensure the safety of staff and customers, focusing on better ventilation, hygiene and sanitation, all measures which SAGE recommends are the most effective ways to control infection.
'As a result, pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs are safer places in which to socialise with family and friends than at home this Christmas.'
Government High Streets Task Force expert and ShopLocalOnline.org founder, Dr Jackie Mulligan, urged ministers to put in place fresh support for hospitality.'The silence from Downing Street around a lack of support for hospitality and other businesses impacted by the Omicron variant is deafening,' she said.
'For many small businesses, it feels like the Government has stopped fighting their corner and has instead opted to hide in one.
© PAIn a trading update, Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin warned government restrictions could push it into a loss in the first six months of the year
'Footfall on the high street has dropped off significantly following the working from home guidance, while Christmas parties are being cancelled left, right and centre.
'Small hospitality and retail businesses are a resilient bunch but we simply can't leave them hanging like this. The mixed messages and uncertainty at such a crucial time of the year are proving a nightmare.'
Des Gunewardena, CEO of D&D London restaurant group, told the Times cancellations started coming in straight after Boris Johnson declared the start of 'Plan B'.Emma Sweet, marketing manager at the Brakspear group of pubs, said its 130 premises had received hundreds of cancellations after the announcement.
She said there had been 140 cancellations in the nine houses it manages directly.In Scotland, some operators are said to have lost 100 per cent of their festive business in the wake of warnings from Public Health Scotland and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week.
The sector is said to be 'on its knees' with one restaurant in Edinburgh receiving 500 cancellations just 24 hours after the announcement.
A hotel in Dunfermline, Fife, had 400 cancellations in 12 hours while another in Aberdeen projected a fall-off of £100,000, according to industry leaders.Organisations representing the industry said they have effectively been closed down at a time of year crucial to sustaining businesses and more than 100,000 jobs.
Public Health Scotland urged people to put the plug on their festive celebrations last week, as the number of Omicron outbreaks rises.
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said the advice had sent 'a shockwave of anxiety and turbulence' through Scotland's tourism community.
He said: 'Within hours, we had received numerous messages, emails and calls from hotels, accommodation providers, restaurants and events venues with notification of mass cancellation of bookings representing a colossal loss of revenue, not just solely attributed to Christmas party night cancellations.
'One hotelier today who told me that business to the value of £250,000 for the remainder of this month has been wiped out.
'A restaurant in Edinburgh said that within 24 hours of the Public Health Scotland announcement they had received 500 cancellations.
'A hotel in Dunfermline asked what they can do about the 400 cancellations they'd received within 12 hours.
'A hotel in Aberdeen received 22 supplier deliveries the day before the announcement to cater for booking.
'They received 1000 cancellations and project a fall-off of £100,000, but still have the supplier bills to pay. This isn't unusual, it's widespread
The UK last night reported another 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant - an increase of 65 per cent over the past 24 hours.
© PAPaddington was deserted this morning as people stopped commuting until the New Year at the earliest
However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that just 10 people had been admitted to hospital.
Today, Boris Johnson announced the first death.
The PM is still insisting Britons can attend Christmas parties, but many are increasingly wary of the risk of large gatherings and are anticipating tougher rules down the line.
Under Plan B, people in England are being advised to work from home, while Covid passports have been brought in for large events.
There is was incredulity today about the PM's insistence that people shouldn't go to the office, but should still go to Christmas parties and dinners.
Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of the Government's Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) told ITV's Good Morning Britain: 'At the moment, we're in a situation where the new variant in effect is coming at us like an express train.
'We've got to do something or else we're in real danger of overwhelming our society and overwhelming the NHS.
'And there's so many things you can do. The first thing, and the most obvious thing, is that if you reduce the number of social contacts you have you limit the spread of the infection.
'Now, nobody wants to give up their Christmas parties, and nobody wants to miss out on meeting up with people.
'It's a little bit like Christmas dinner - if you have too big a Christmas breakfast, then you spoil your appetite for your Christmas dinner, which is what really counts.
'And I think, in the same way, we need to think really seriously about our contacts. How important are they? Do we really need them and is it more important to act carefully now so that the contacts we really want and we really need are still happening?'
Pictures from London this morning suggested working from home guidance was already having an effect, with Waterloo, Euston and Paddington, usually rammed with commuters between 7am and 9am, largely empty.
Tube platforms and carriages were also largely unoccupied as offices emptied.
Traffic was also running freely on routes usually choked with traffic on the quietest Monday morning rush hour in London since September 6, MailOnline can reveal, with one central London resident tweeting: 'I'm slap bang in the middle of London and roads are unbelievably quiet now'.
Another commuter tweeted: 'Work from home order well and truly back. Tube is absolutely empty this morning'.
Roads and railways across the UK including in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle were also quiet this morning.
The working from home recommendation is the latest step of Mr Johnson's Plan B to slow the spread of Omicron in the UK - but critics including his own MPs believe it is simply a stepping stone towards another lockdown.