A HOSPITALITY leader has issued a plea for people to support local businesses as the government’s Plan B for dealing with the Covid crisis comes into force.

Andy Lennox pointed out that hospitality venues are exempt from the rules on masks – and said “Christmas has not been cancelled”.

Mr Lennox, who leads local industry group Wonky Table, has seen hundreds of bookings cancelled at his Zim Braai and Nusara restaurants since the Omicron variant of the coronavirus came to light.

Under the government’s Plan B, people are being asked to work from home if they can, while face coverings are required in most indoor public spaces.

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Masks are not required in restaurants, cafes and bars.

Mr Lennox was concerned that people would be reluctant to go out to eat, but that there was no support being offered this time to businesses facing a loss of trade.

“We’ve had so many cancellations but there’s no support mechanism in place. It’s restrictions through the back door,” he said.

Mr Lennox added: “Ultimately the message is Christmas has not been cancelled. Working from home doesn’t mean you can’t go out and eat in a restaurant.”

BH Area Hospitality Association chair Tim Seward has said that hotels in the area have been relatively unaffected by the recent restriction, with bars and restaurants remaining open and hotels still welcoming guests.

Although some hotels in the area have seen several cancellations following the announcement, current bookings remain comparable to festive period in previous years.

“People are being cautious, and places are getting cancellation for bookings and function but that is due to personal choice and not a decision made by the hotel.

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“Bournemouth is busy at the moment; the town centre was heaving last Saturday. There are lot so for Christmas shows and pantomimes on at the moment and people are coming from far and wide and need somewhere to stay overnight.”

“Every hotel in the area is open and ready to welcome guests but, at the end of the day, people have to make their own decisions.”

People wishing to see festive shows, performances and pantomimes won’t see much of a difference to current Covid measures enforced at venues, although facemasks will be mandatory.

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Oscar Sellick-Pippey, the Regent Centre’s new general manager, said that the Christchurch theatre will not be reducing capacity for its Christmas shows and is happy that the Regent’s bumper festive calendar and 90th anniversary plans on Boxing Day can still go ahead as planned.

He added: “It is an adjustment, but it is only a small adjustment to the measures we already have in place.

“We have a very busy festive period with lots of shows and performances and we are confident that we will be able to keep these in place and we look forward to welcoming guests to the Regent Centre in the lead up to Christmas.

“For the majority of our visitors it is another level of security for them. Most of our guests still wear facemasks as a precaution so now knowing that everyone is required to wear one will make them feel safer.”