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Sydney businesses hit hard by COVID-19 fears ahead of New Year's Eve

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Businesses in Sydney's CBD fear exploding levels of daily COVID-19 cases will blunt the economic return of New Year's Eve, traditionally the city's biggest night of the year.

From restaurants to harbour cruise operators, many businesses are seeing mass cancellations despite insistence from the state government the fireworks will go ahead.

Sudhir Warrier from the Australian Cruise Group said COVID-19 fears mean only 25 per cent of seats available on his boats to watch the fireworks have sold.

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"In 2019, we had 2500 guests on the harbour on New Year's Eve cruises across 12 boats," Mr Warrier told Today.

"This year we have sold just over 600 seats. So we're probably sitting around 25 per cent of the seats sold and we are hoping for a last-minute rush."

Mr Warrier said his business and the entire industry has been enduring "a terrible year" and the dependency operators have on New Year's Eve mean many won't be profitable.

"I mean, every cruise operator looks forward to New Year's Eve. It's the greatest event, big fireworks, most boats are full and it's a great financial incentive for the entire industry," Mr Warrier said.

"Last year we had the Northern Beaches outbreak and this year, you know, Omicron has come at the wrong time. I mean, generally 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the bookings come in December. So more than cancellations, what we have is bookings have completely dried up."

READ MORE: Sydney hospitality venues and cruises see New Year's Eve ticket sales plummet amid COVID-19 surge

Family friendly New Years Eve events around the country

While some businesses are being hurt by customer cancellations, others have been forced to shutter their doors for NYE as tough isolation rules – or long waits for PCR results – mean staff are stuck at home.

Shell House in Sydney's CBD has been forced to close its doors after the latest outbreak meant not enough staff could be brought in to work, with the hospitality venue shutting up shop until January 5, 2022.

"We have made the difficult decision to close our doors to Shell House for the rest of the year. The latest outbreak has been a blow to us and sadly means that we do not have the team members needed to provide the level of service we expect to deliver to all of our guests," the restaurant and bar told followers on social media.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CXw2jZUPy5a/

"We will be contacting all guests who have a reservation to help you rearrange your bookings in the New Year.

"It's with a heavy heart that we also announce the cancellation of our NYE party. A tough decision to make, but considering the current COVID situation rapidly unfolding it's the responsible thing for us to do.

"The health and safety of our guests, staff, friends and family trumps everything else."

READ MORE: Sydney's New Year's Eve vantage points could close due to COVID-19

City of Sydney Program Manager, Stephen Gilby speaks at the media event for the 2021 NYE Fireworks display at Glebe Island in Sydney, on Wednesday, December 29, 2021. Photo by Cole Bennetts.

While both the 9pm and midnight fireworks will go ahead, Sydney NYE organisers have said they may be forced to limit crowd numbers at popular vantage points.

"We will react to any changes in the public health order and amend our plans as we need to ensure people stay safe," Stephen Gilby, executive producer of NYE celebrations, said.

"We will be operating under the public health orders NSW Health has issued and every different vantage point or function or event that is happening will also be operating under those health orders.

"We have six vantage points that are all in outdoor parks, but we are operating those on a one person per two square metres basis."





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