Ibby Ali, who runs the Indian restaurant Usha in Rossendale Road, was hoping for a well-deserved Christmas boost but now faces yet another festive disaster with fears over the Omicron surge compounded by what he believes to be a devastating lack of leadership on the part of the government.
“Two weeks ago, we were pretty happy, everything was fine,” he told the Express. âWhen we got a phone call it was either a take out or a reservation, now it’s for a cancellation. All the big holidays around Christmas, the working holidays; they all canceled. And now a third of Christmas Day reservations are gone.
âThe hype around Christmas has completely died down. Boris promised us a Christmas last year, and yes he may have delivered one to us this year but it is a second-hand Christmas.
âEven today is Wednesday; it’s one of our busiest days even when it’s not Christmas, because of the deals we have. And today we have about 20 people reserved, which is nothing compared to even a normal Wednesday. ”
Ibby expects further cancellations on Christmas Day and has said he tries not to worry too much about the restrictions he says will be announced in a few days.
âWe know something is going to happen after Christmas Day. Everyone knows it, they know it. But we have to go on as usual. We still have to order the food, the alcohol, sort the staff turnover. If we only have 50 people eating with us on Christmas Day, instead of 300, it costs us the same.
“I would rather they shut down and support us financially. At least then we would know what was going on. The management was horrible. They did the same damage to our industry, but without using the word ‘foreclosure’, so that they don’t have to support us properly. They do say to keep your doors open, but no one is going.
âPeople are worried, they are suspicious of what’s going to happen, and I understand that. In this country, people are very rule-abiding people, that’s how they are. is said by the government, or government officials, we tend to follow. At the end of the day we put them there to guide us. So, now they told people to “be careful” and c ‘is what people do. Problem is, it hits restaurants hard on us. “
What he cannot understand is why he has spent so much time, effort and money securing his premises against Covid, only for the government to treat restaurants, bars and nightclubs this way.
âIt always seems like the first places to be attacked – I don’t know what other word to use – are hospitality and recreation. It feels like they’re targeting certain industries, where people are going to have fun. . People need our businesses, and we need people. This is our livelihood that we are talking about.
âThese support packages – the one now at Â£ 6,000 – that aren’t going to do anything. We’re going to lose a lot more than that because of the way they’ve done it. Nothing stops for us. Our daily costs, our VAT returns; everything continues. “
Ibby is expected to look forward to Usha’s 20th birthday in February, but is now afraid of what the future holds.
“That scares me. How long can this last? It’s not just my restaurant. It’s all restaurants and bars and nightclubs. We just want normality, or the process properly run; that’s whatever we ask. “