Christmas parties go ahead in Great Yarmouth as caution warned

A Generic Photo of people clinking glasses at a Christmas party. See PA Feature FINANCE Christmas Sa

People enjoying a Christmas party. How different has yours been this year? - Credit: Press Association Images

Christmas party season is upon us and Great Yarmouth's venues say warnings over the Omicron variant have not killed the festive mood.

But several people - including Norfolk MP George Freeman and virus expert Paul Hunter - have called for smaller get togethers instead of the usual larger gatherings in reaction to the Omicron variant.

Prof Hunter, from the University of East Anglia's School of Medicine, has decided to skip his office's Christmas party - and suggested others might want to follow suit.

Prof Paul Hunter, from the UEA, has encouraged people to donate to the WHO's Covid-19 Response Fund

Prof Paul Hunter, from the UEA, said Christmas plans shouldn't be scrapped but larger gatherings should be avoided. - Credit: UEA

He said: "It's notable that England is not advising against Christmas parties and, personally, I think that is a mistake.

"The thing about an office Christmas party is you can get a lot of 20-somethings, who might have been going out a lot, mixing with more vulnerable, older people, who have not.

"Having said that, I don't think we should stop people meeting up over Christmas.

"When people meet their families over Christmas, they generally tend to stay indoors for a few days and come into contact with fewer people than normal."

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On Thursday, Mid Norfolk MP and business minister George Freeman said that larger firms might want to consider cancelling festive gatherings.

George Freeman MP

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

"It slightly depends on the nature of the business. For many small businesses, four or five staff, who are working together every day anyway, gathering to have a drink isn't a big step up in risk," he said.

"But some companies might normally bring hundreds of people in from around the world to a big party, and they may decide, this year, is that sensible given the pandemic and given where we are?"

In Great Yarmouth, one party venue said it is having a bumper season, while another said it is having a ban on dancing. 

Furzedown Hotel manager Paul Garrod said the function room has not received any cancellations so far.

“However, we do not have any discos planned, so there will be no dancing at all this Christmas," Mr Garrod said.

“Our restaurant and bar will remain open and will be on New Year’s Eve. 

Garrods Restaurant is located inside Furzedown Hotel on North Drive in Great Yarmouth

Furzedown Hotel will have its restaurant open for Christmas, but no disco. - Credit: Google

“There will be no band or dance floor – but the restaurant and tables can be booked and there will be music on in the background."

Mr Garrod said the Furzedown will follow Boris Johnson's advice and currently, there are no restrictions on customers.

"It is their choice whether they wear masks or not," Mr Garrod said.

“Our staff prefer to wear masks and that’s their choice."

Burgh Hall owner Paul Southey said that the venue is almost sold out for the month of December.

“We’ve not had any cancellations up past Christmas Eve," said Mr Southey.

“Either we're lucky or it's all hype."

Paul, Pauline, Hayley and David Southey standing in front of the pool at Burgh Hall.

Paul Southey, left, said he is nearly fully booked for December. - Credit: Paul Southey

Mr Southey said that since the lifting of restrictions "nothing has affected us" and Burgh Hall has enjoyed rising numbers in carvery orders and private bookings.

Burgh Hall currently have no restrictions in place, but guests are encouraged to regularly use hand sanitiser.

“We're still providing sanitiser and we also have gloves by the carvery to use if people want," Mr Southey said.

“Some people wear masks and we don't stop them.

"It's their preference.  

“Some people still feel vulnerable and want to protect themselves and we understand that.” 

Burgh Hall is sold out for both sittings on Christmas Day, and its Boxing Day buffet is also at capacity.

“Really, we only have eight spaces left for our New Year’s Eve party and that’s it," Mr Southey added.

Elsewhere, Palm Court Hotel and Burlington Function Suite will not be open for Christmas this year due to the uncertainty of the past year.

Duty manager, Tessa Fennell said: “The pandemic has had an effect.

“Because we didn't know at the beginning of the year - we decided to close for this Christmas and go all out next year, basically.  

“By the time we knew things would be okay, it was too late.”

Ms Fennell said the hotel had had one private Christmas party recently with a good turnout, and there are two more upcoming private parties booked for December.

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