by Susan Young
This is my first Sue Says in 11 weeks – that’s how long it has been since we have been in lockdown. Although I am not working full-time I am keeping up with lots of you on the phone and sometimes I just don’t know what to say. And as all of you that know me you will know how unusual that is.
What do you say when someone says they can’t sleep at night because they may have to let go of a third of their staff in the next few weeks? And that is not just the news from one person. What is evident is that we are a long way from opening viably at the moment and even then further support from the government will be needed, and even then there is going to be a tsunami of lost jobs and that is not far away. Nobody wants to lose staff but there is no other option as these businesses fight to survive.
We all know 2m will not work in the licensed trade – even if you have an outside area – you might get away with 1.5m but ideally it would be 1m or no social distancing at all. But for that to happen the dreaded ‘R’ rate has to come down. Fundamentally that is what is holding everything back. Health is trumping businesses, and so it should. I would love to see an advertising campaign and a social media campaign that urges folk ‘We need you… to be sensible so that pubs, restaurants, and hotels can open, and jobs can be saved!’ I would urge you all to spread this message to your staff, to your customers, and to anyone that will listen.
The trade is still looking for Government help. It is a scandal that the biggest employers in the trade have had the least support from the Government. Those with a RV of over £51K didn’t get the hospitality grants – instead businesses have had to take on extra borrowings, although some have now managed to get a hardship grant or a pivotal grant which is something. Mind you I have heard of a few who have got grants for all their properties and Bounce Back Loans – they are the lucky ones that are feeling flush! But they are few and far between.
There are many other measures needed. There needs to be a special Coronovirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for hospitality, rates need to be halted for another year, and the RV reset. Landlords need to be supported to give rent holidays or reductions, further grant support is still needed, and local government needs to be supportive. It is essential that planning departments and licensing relax the rules and that LSO’s are supportive of premises in their areas. Glasgow’s council leader has said that her plans include widening pavements by removing on-street parking and closing off some whole streets so people can walk or cycle, and cafes, bars, and restaurants can better utilise the space outside their premises and resume trading. I hope she has told planning!
We need marketing support to get people back out and we need an international marketing campaign and on and on…
People ask me when do you think we will open? I don’t know. Nobody does. I would guesstimate mid-August if the ‘R’ rate comes down. But it really has to or we may be open, and before long we will be closed again. I would hope the Scottish Government would give us a date before the end of July which would give us three weeks to get organised but we also need a set of guidelines to be issued as soon as possible and hopefully, they will get key players/operators to help them with these. Certainly, the trade has reached out to the First Minister to offer the Government their support. I hope they take them up on it.
While all this is going on – and I have to take my hat off to the trade bodies the STA, SLTA, UKHospitality, BBPA – they have been working endlessly on your behalf. If you haven’t got a membership of at least one of these bodies it is time to get one now – I have also been astounded by the creativity of the trade.
The shock of the first month left people paralysed but then they got right back up and on it. Take-aways galore, from Sunday dinners to cocktails… many have been supplying the NHS and essential workers with food – from The Ivy in Glasgow who I hear has been feeding paramedics to Lisini who provided meals for vulnerable people and the Tiki Bar who fed NHS staff. Hotels groups like Manorview and Ten Hill Place in Edinburgh have been providing rooms and the list goes on. In fact, I am going to change some of our awards – which will take place – to include our heroes in the licensed trade. There are a lot of positives – not least people’s support of each other and the kindness that has been exhibited by the trade. It has always been resilient and it continues to be so. The good work being put in won’t be forgotten when your customers return.