A restaurateur who invested £160,000 into making his establishment Covid-proof ahead of the winter is expecting to lose thousands of pounds as new restrictions force hospitality closures.
When restaurants were told that they could only offer outdoor seating to those from different households while a maximum of six could dine inside, Luke Davis, boss of Rockwater in Hove, took it as an opportunity to innovate.
He set about importing 30 igloos to the UK from Germany, so 'bubbles' could dine safely outside, warm and enclosed and away from other families.
However, with new nationwide restrictions coming into force, the pods, which cost £160,000 could be no more than a beachside feature, left empty and crucially, not providing any income for a business already hit by the lockdown since March.
Mr Davis, 41, said: "These are difficult times for the hospitality trade. We wanted to continue trading and we had to order these pods from Germany.
"The igloos are really cool looking and totally fit the requirements of our restaurant. It looks very other-worldly. They really are an attraction in themselves.
"We only launched the pods this weekend and we are already totally booked out with guests.
"I realised that in these uncertain times we need to innovate to ensure we comply with the Government guidelines. By installing these pods we hope to be able to trade for as long as possible while ensuring a safe environment for our guests and staff."
The pods each have their own lighting, sound system and seating for six around a table. To protect customers from freezing while dining out next to the English Channel in November, each pod has its own heating system and diners can sit on warm sheepskins.
When diners want to order they simply press a button which turns the pod red to alert restaurant staff they want a fresh drink or food.
"Restaurants have been decimated by Covid and you have to adapt to be able to stay in business.
"During the summer we had launched a takeaway and diners were able to eat in beach huts. Now as we move into winter we have these beautiful heated pods. I think they're perfect,” he added.
The main Rockwater building in Hove, East Sussex is still under construction and is set to open in December.