Government single biggest threat to Scottish pubs say licensees

April 13th, 2015 | Posted in: Features

The Scottish licensed trade believe the single biggest threat to their business is Scottish Government Legislation and not off trade pricing or local competition. This news was revealed by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association who carried out a survey of 400 licensees.

The survey revealed new drink-driving legislation which came into effect in December had resulted in a decline in drink sales in the majority of Scotland’s pubs, restaurants, hotels and golf clubs.

More than half showed a decline of up to 10% in like for like sales in 2015 vs 2014. Around a third saw a decline of more than 10% – up to 30% in some instances on mid-week takings.

Paul Waterson Chief Executive, of the SLTA said, “These results, which mirror other earlier trade surveys, are very worrying. The fight is on to save our trade. Our members are saying that customers are now afraid to stop and have one drink at their local on the way home from work, and many who take the family out for a mid-week bite or Sunday lunch, aren’t coming in at all.”

“People worried about driving with small residual amounts of alcohol in their bloodstream after a night out is having the most significant effect on stopping people coming into our premises of an evening.“

Kenny Blair, Director of Buzzworks, owners of Lido, Scotts and Elliots, said, “It’s just one more challenge to overcome. I think this is another sign that the licensed trade is not for the faint hearted. You have got to be lean, agile and innovative and work really hard to be successful in today’s market.”

David Glass, president of the Dundee Licensed Trade Association, and licensee at Doc Ferry’s, in Broughty Ferry, said “I think it’s bigger than the smoking ban because when that was introduced people could still come to the pub and have a drink. I’ve noticed a downturn in terms of like-for-like sales. Where people would have come in for a drink after work, they don’t any more.”

Says Donald MacLeod of Holdfast, “With regards to Scotland’s new drink drive legislation I was against this measure from the off. It is one of the least thought out and ill-advised pieces of legislation to have hit, sorry, bludgeoned, the licence trade in years. Certainly not since the smoking ban was introduced, and we all know the catastrophic effect that has had on a then flourishing and accountable trade. Forcing as it did many pubs and clubs to close and allowing the major supermarket chains to dominate the off sale market and drive a wedge into the on sale market as many smokers elected to stay at home and drink rather than be treated like a leper, huddled in a door way outside their local

It comes as no surprise to learn that many popular rural pub/ restaurants, places which once relied upon people or parties who would go out for a drive in the country are now suffering as the confusion of what the driver can or rather cannot drink hits home. This legislation has not only hurt those establishments by driving away otherwise law abiding drivers but by its very severity in punishment, treating those who are just over the new limit the same as those who were over the old, and the OTT scare mongering Police Scotland warnings, scaring many other away from pubs & clubs and now restaurants altogether, especially in the cities.

“It certainly won’t stop the habitual drunk driver and I would be very interested to see what the stats are. From what I hear only 7 unfortunate people were caught between the new and old limit over the Christmas period and they must now feel sick. But more importantly were the numbers drink driving so bad that it warranted such radical and brutal measures to be brought in in the first place.. I think not!”

While David Wither of Edinburgh-based Montpeliers said, “These are very worrying stats coming out of Scotland, and yet another challenge to face the industry. Drink driving is a very serious concern, but I feel that The Scottish Government has been scaremongering to some degree, especially as regards the morning after risk. The only way the industry can defend itself in any way whatsoever, is by working with a non biased, informed source (university), to get them to educate the general public accurately (as much as is possible), and practically.

Given all that, I’m sure that the changes in the law will have a permanent effect to some degree, so the industry must continue to innovate and evolve to ensure it is as good as it possibly can be.”


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