'No-shows' kicking Lancashire's already struggling hospitality industry
Struggling pubs and restaurants are urging selfish customers to be more considerate before booking tables and not turning up.
The hospitality industry, already on its knees due to Covid, says it is being kicked when down by "no-show" patrons who make reservations and then fail to appear.
In Lancashire the problem has hit businesses hard during the cold and wet weather of the past week.
"We are already running at a loss only being allowed to open outdoors," said Laura Short business development manager at 1842 in Preston city centre. "That's bad enough.
"But it's a big kick in the teeth when people make reservations and then don't honour them at the last minute, leaving us with empty tables.
"We can understand I suppose if the weather turns foul. But please let us know as soon as you can if you're not coming. It's only fair."
Many venues have remained closed since the Government eased restrictions on the hospitality industry by allowing outdoor service on April 12.
They either don't have the space outside or have decided to wait until customers are allowed indoors in two weeks time - assuming Boris Johnson's road map out of lockdown is still on course.
Those who have opened say they did well for the first two weeks thanks to the sunny weather. But an unseasonal change over the Bank Holiday weekend sent customers scurrying for cover and resulted in a large number of unfilled bookings.
Some pubs and restaurants tried to battle on, but were left admitting defeat due to rain and icy winds.
The popular beer garden Preston's New Continental in South Meadow Lane would normally have been full on Bank Holiday Monday, but instead staff decided to close due to the "diabolical weather."
Landlord Chris Buckley at the Golden Ball in Longton, which has a large dining teepee at the rear, posted a video online offering customers blankets and saying: "Bring a hot water bottle and we'll fill it for you."
The Dolphin Inn, also in Longton, decided to close its large outdoor area as the rain lashed down. And the Hunters in Hennel Lane, Preston, which has covered seating for 120, tried to battle on before finally calling a halt on Monday and closing early.
"We ain't fighting with nature," staff tweeted. "We have given it a good shot, but unfortunately the rain is coming sideways."
Back at 1842, Laura added: "The weather is all-important right now and for the first two weeks it was so good we were overwhelmed by how busy it was.
"But last Friday afternoon we had heavy rain and hailstone and we had to halt service it was that bad. I was drenched like I'd stood under the shower.
"People were leaving or cancelling their food. And it suddenly dawned on me that, with the unpredictable British weather, we might be facing a lot more of this until we're allowed to open indoors.
"We aren't breaking even right now, but we are soldiering on in the hope the weather will improve again and, fingers crossed, Boris will go ahead with May 17th.
"But the no-shows are making it a lot more difficult for all venues. Many have been considering a deposit system to try and encourage people to honour their bookings.
"Can you believe, our first booking at midday on the first day we re-opened, didn't show up! And it was a lovely day weather-wise.
"We can understand if people change their minds and decide not to come - as long as they tell us in advance so we can accept another booking for their table.
"The public have to get used to a new way of going out and socialising. You don't have that spontaneity now, you have to be very organised and book tables in advance."