With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly and vaccine passports becoming mandatory since December 13, restaurants are hit hard as Christmas approaches. Proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test result or proof of natural immunity are now required to access restaurants and other indoor places.
Armagh I have spoken to a number of local restaurateurs in recent days and all of them are experiencing increasing cancellations for various reasons related to Covid. Caorlan McAllister and Gavin Bates took over Halfway House restaurant in Banbridge in August 2020 after being forced to close due to pressures from the pandemic.
It has been a difficult year for the hospitality industry since then, with further closures taking its toll. The Halfway House followed strict protocol when Armagh I met Caorlan on Friday for this week’s podcast.
Contact tracing information, mask wearing, disinfection, and most importantly my vaccination card and ID were all required before I crossed the threshold. The festively decorated restaurant had an unannounced visit from the government earlier today and passed the Covid-related inspection.
Although it got quite busy at lunchtime, Caorlan said two large groups canceled reservations for that day.
He’s pretty optimistic that smaller groups of people will still feel safe enough to eat out over the Christmas season if the restrictions don’t tighten further, but at the same time he fears that there will be a lot of fear of contracting the virus for Christmas, which could put people off.
That, added to the complications of the documentation required to enter the restaurant and the inability of the business to function normally, is a real concern. Caorlan discusses the challenges facing his industry and the ripple effect for staff, suppliers and communities at large.
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Title music: NEW HORIZONS – Lesion X
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