A Belfast city centre restaurant had to turn eight people away within 20 minutes of opening as they did not have the correct Covid pass.
John Lavery, owner of Fish City, said that he has had to turn away 12 people this week as a result of them not having the correct materials to comply with the Covid pass.
He says that the new regulations are already having an impact on his and other businesses in the area, with December not being as busy a month as he would have hoped.
Speaking to Belfast Live, John said: “On Monday, after 20 minutes of being open we had to decline eight people unfortunately for not having the correct pass. We also had to turn away four yesterday.
“The pass scheme is also affecting us where we have members of staff going up to check passes as people come in, and it takes time whenever they do have their passes as they need to be scanned and checked. Some of these people haven’t understood what is required of them so you have to explain and that can take three, four or five minutes to go through it all.
“Apart from having to turn people away, we are dealing with the additional costs of running the scheme.
“Most people who we have had to turn away have been very understanding, although there have been one or two who have been quite upset. Thankfully before all of this happened we provided training to our staff on how to deal with it and show that it is not our decision, we are just following the law in place.”
John said that compared with previous years, the restaurant had not been as busy as he would have hoped during December and that the whole hospitality industry was currently under pressure.
This is due to a combination of different factors including cancellations from large groups, decreased footfall due to people working at home and concerns around catching Covid.
He continued: “We have been comparing the months since we have opened to 2019 and December has definitely been affected by the new regulations and people’s concern. It hasn’t been as busy as we would have hoped.
“We are seeing the biggest impact at the start of the week, Monday through Thursday, where there just hasn’t been the footfall in the city centre with people being encouraged to work from home. Although we are still doing very strong at the weekends.
“It has also been difficult with staff shortages and not being able to plan ahead. One day we might not need many people but it could be completely different the next. I suspect there are concerns among hospitality staff of another lockdown and nobody wants to change jobs in case it leaves them unable to go on furlough.
“There are a number of different factors that are affecting all of the businesses.”
John felt that more target help was needed for City Centre businesses, which have higher operating costs than those elsewhere in the city.
He warned that it is currently “tough times for hospitality” with many fearing how they will manage through the traditionally quieter months of January, February and March.