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Sankey's seafood restaurants in Tunbridge Wells close for Christmas in a bid to protect staff and customers from Covid-19

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A Covid-hit restaurant business has decided to take an £80,000 loss by closing its doors so staff have the best chance of Christmas with their families.

The owners of Sankey's Seafood Kitchen and Bar in Mt Ephraim and The Old Fishmarket in The Pantiles, both in Tunbridge Wells, say a number of positive cases among staff made it clear precautions already in place would still not be enough prevent the transmission of the Omicron variant.

Sankey's Seafood Kitchen and Bar in Tunbridge Wells will be shut until after Christmas. Picture: Google Street View
Sankey's Seafood Kitchen and Bar in Tunbridge Wells will be shut until after Christmas. Picture: Google Street View

With some customers already deciding to curtail plans for festive socialising, the decision was taken to close until December 27.

The rate of Covid infection in Tunbridge Wells has reached 952.6 per 100,000 people - higher than during last winter's peak and 44% higher than the rate of 661.3 for England as a whole.

"I'm of the opinion that had we decided to remain open it would only be a matter of time before more staff, and of course members of the public, caught it too," Matthew Sankey said.

"So closing ensures that the majority of our staff can spend Christmas with their families instead. It also ensures that we can reopen on December 27 for the final run up to new year."

Mr Sankey says he believes people are heeding the advice of Chris Witty, chief medical officer for England, to prioritise the most important gatherings this Christmas.

Owner Matthew Sankey
Owner Matthew Sankey

He also expressed his dismay at the lack of support being given to the hospitality sector as trade plummets in the face of cancellations driven by fear of the new variant.

"Closing will cost an estimated £80,000," he said. "But it's the right thing to do.

"Looking at the way the public are responding to the chief medical officer's advice, they are trying to protect their Christmas Day. I cannot blame them at all.

"I just wish that our government would also place everyone's safety over financial costs but I’m sad to say I have lost faith in this administration and cannot see how they are capable of thinking about anyone else but themselves."

'I just wish that our government would place everyone's safety over financial costs'

Mr Sankey said the response from customers who have had bookings cancelled has been positive, and he expressed his gratitude at their understanding.

Yesterday a pub in Dartford announced it had been forced to axe Christmas bookings and shut at short notice due to staff isolating.

Meanwhile, UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls and pub chiefs have made a plea for business rates relief and VAT discounts to be extended.

They have warned that the sector has been knocked harder than expected by the Plan B restrictions.

Sales have already plunged by more than a third over the last 10 days with £2 billion of trade already lost in December.

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