The background music ban, implemented by the Scottish Government on 14th August is having a “devastating effect” on Scotland’s pubs according to the Scottish Beer and Pub Association and this is backed up by a poll carried out by DRAM which reveals there nearly 50% of hospitality businesses as seen a drop of between 30 and 40%.
The poll carried out by the DRAM asked pub, bar and restaurant owners to rate what impact the music ban had on their business: 47% reported a drop of between 30% and 40% while 19% said customers had dropped by 19%. Only 13% said it had no impact.
The ban came in because the Scottish Government said that there was an increased risk of COVID transmission if people raised their voices. The Scottish Beer & Pub Association is urging it to reverse the ban to help boost their businesses as they try to recover post-lockdown.
Dennis Forsyth, licensee of Cheers in Fraserburgh, said that his business was hit on the very first weekend after the ban. He said, “Things were doing well despite operating at a 120 capacity, down from 460. That was until the ban on all background music came in. This has completely screwed us up because our weekend trade has plummeted by 40%. It would have been a better idea to introduce some kind of minimal decibel level rather than ban it outright, and I know that I’m not the only business in the area to have suffered because of it.”
While John Burns, owner of Glasgow’s Bloc+ believes the restrictions are doing more harm than good. He said, “I think that the restrictions on background noise are having the opposite effect to what they are intended for. I think that low-level music acts as a buffer to help groups hear what is being said in their own conversation bubble because the music stops conversations from other ‘bubbles’ wafting over. Whereas now customers have to compete with other and so people are talking even louder.”
Inverness-based Cru Holdings co-director Scott Murray (Angels Share, Bar One, Scotch and Rye, The Keg, Dows Bar, The Classroom, Prime) finds the ban “baffling.” He said, “It impacts on the customer experience by sucking out the atmosphere. Pubs need something to break the silence. We haven’t seen this impact out business though yet because demand in the Highlands trumps a lack of atmosphere. “
Ian McColm owner of Tiki Bar and bar/bowling concept Bowlarama in Glasgow said, “At least people can listen to bowling pins flying through the air on account of that fairly ludicrous no background music policy.”
Louise MacLean from Signature Pubs based in Edinburgh believes the Government should work with licensees to resolve the issue. She says, ” Customers don’t want to go to venues that are silent and awkward so inevitably our takings are down.
“We understand the concern about noise but we would happily work with Scottish Government officials and set decibel levels to create a welcoming atmosphere within acceptable limits. Otherwise the future for bars in Scotland looks bleak as autumn approaches and inside spaces become more important.”
SBPA CEO Emma McClarkin comments, “There is an easy middle ground to be had here, where responsible pubs can be allowed to create an atmosphere and ambience that makes them what they are, whilst controlling noise to a level which doesn’t require customers to shout.
“Music adds to the ambience and atmosphere of the pub. Without music our venues are losing more of their soul.”