A LUXURY Barrow hotel is set to close from March 26 after room bookings tumbled by 80 per cent, it was announced yesterday.

Brian Conroy, operations director at Abbey House Hotel and Gardens, described the decision as ‘devastating’.

“The effect on the business in a very short space of time has been profound, as the public react to the advice of the Government in relation to the coronavirus,” he said.

“We have a responsibility to our staff and we have a responsibility to our customers.

“Staying open at this time would not be the right thing to do - in a moral or in a business sense.”

He added: “The situation is devastating. We will, of course, maintain contact with all of our colleagues; this is a fast moving situation and guidance from the Government changes daily.”

In addition to the steep drop in bookings, all functions and conferences at the hotel have been cancelled or postponed, while weddings due to take place in the next three months have been rescheduled.

The news comes on the back of Mr Conroy’s decision to lay off all staff on zero-hours contracts with immediate effect on Friday.

An email to one such worker seen by The Mail said: “With effect from Monday, March 23, you are not required to attend work until further notice.

“As a zero hours employee unfortunately, you are not entitled to be paid.

“We will continue to seek appropriate work for you and will notify you as soon as possible when work becomes available.”

Mr Conroy said: “We will absolutely be maintaining communication with all of our team members and alerting them wherever possible to the help and support which is out there for them as part of the Government’s support packages.”

“This is an extremely challenging time, for Abbey House, for the hospitality sector at large and indeed for our country.”

The staff affected by yesterday’s announcement - around 100 in total - will come under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which guarantees 80 per cent of their salaries will be paid for by the Government even if there is no work. However, it appears that the scheme, announced on Friday, only covers zero-hour contract workers on Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax schemes.