PUBS are calling for the Government to do more to support them after seeing cancellations lay hammer blows to trade.

The spread of the Omicron variant has led to thousands cancelling their Christmas parties, with the knock-on effect leaving pubs out of pocket.

The festive season is traditionally regarded as a crucial trading period for pubs, going into the new year.

See also: Bayards Hill Primary School in Oxford gets new headteacher

Baz Butcher, landlord at the White Hart of Wytham, estimates the pub has lost out on more than £17,000 worth of trade so far, due to cancellations.

He said: “It’s been extremely difficult to manage, we’ve had more than 450 cancellations in the last 10 days.

“It was an absolutely critical period to have had an uninterrupted month of trading.

“We estimate we’ve lost £17,500 in trade so far and you never make that up.

“We desperately need the Government to step up, there may be some movement but we urgently need VAT reduction and help with business rates.”

He added: “Everyone who’s cancelled has been really apologetic and I understand, as many people are anxious about the current situation.”

Oxford Mail: Baz Butcher, landlord at The White Hart of Wytham. Picture: Ed NixBaz Butcher, landlord at The White Hart of Wytham. Picture: Ed Nix

The Free Spirit Pub Company oversees four pubs, three of which are in Oxfordshire – including The Castle at Edgehill in Banbury.

The company’s founder Mark Higgs said 40 per cent of Christmas party bookings at the pub have been cancelled, equating to roughly £50,000 in revenue.

Mr Higgs said: “It’s like hospitality has been hung out to dry again.

“Whether we survive this depends very much on Government and landlord support again, which is a terrible place to be.

“We make sales by selling food and drink, and that has been taken away from us without any support whatsoever.

“Yes, public health is number one but no support at all has been given.”

Read more: Plans for care units refused after NHS and police objections

Oxford CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) spokesperson Dave Richardson added: “Cancellations have hit dining pubs hard, especially in the countryside.

“For many pubs, the slowest time of the year is in January and February. There are fears we could see closures in January and February, which would be very sad indeed.

“The situation locally is better than the national picture as we’ve lost very few pubs during the pandemic, and the industry has shown great resilience.

“We back calls for a financial assistance push for pubs and breweries, whether there’s another lockdown or not.

“If further restrictions are introduced, pubs need help with grants, VAT, and business rates – as do breweries.

“It’s not all doom and gloom though, some pubs went into the festive period with very good trade.”

An HM Treasury spokesperson said: “The chancellor has spoken to a range of business and industry leaders in recent days.

“We recognise how important the festive period is for so many businesses and the Government will continue to engage constructively on how it can best provide ongoing support to the businesses and sectors affected.”