> SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE! 

Restaurant

Steve Geffen holds a bagel as he poses for a photo at the Once Upon a Bagel restaurant in Highland Park, Ill., Thursday, Dec. 16. U.S. restaurants are entering their second winter of the pandemic on firmer footing. Their doors are open and many dining rooms are full again. But the industry remains anxious, squeezed by labor shortages and food prices, and unsure if the omicron variant will once again drive diners away. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Just as Americans and Europeans were eagerly awaiting their most normal holiday season in a couple of years, the omicron variant has unleashed a fresh round of fear and uncertainty — for travelers, shoppers, party-goers and their economies as a whole, according to an Associated Press report.

The Rockettes have canceled their Christmas show in New York. Some London restaurants have emptied out as commuters avoid the downtown. Broadway shows are canceling some performances. The National Hockey League suspended its games until after Christmas. Boston plans to require diners, revelers and shoppers to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars and stores.

A heightened sense of anxiety has begun to erode the willingness of some people and some businesses to carry on as usual in the face of the extraordinarily contagious omicron variant, which has fast become the dominant version of the virus in the United States.

Other people are still traveling, spending and congregating as they normally do, though often with more caution. Holiday air travel remains robust. Many stores and restaurants are still enjoying solid sales. And omicron has yet to keep audiences away from movie theaters in significant numbers. This past weekend, record audiences across all demographics flocked to theaters for the new “Spider-Man” movie.

“The movie theater has not yet been hindered by omicron,” said Steve Buck, the chief strategy officer of EntTelligence.

At the same time, no one knows yet what omicron will ultimately mean for the health of the Western economies, which have endured a wild ride of downturns and recoveries since early 2020.

“These mutations keep coming,” said Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. “What is the probability that sometime we get a really nasty one? No one has any idea. This thing is mutating, and it’s very, very hard to say.’’

Click here for the full Associated Press report.