Trade bodies have slammed the 10pm curfew that licensees and restaurant owners in Scotland must comply with as of Friday 25th September branding it the “last straw” for many business that have now become “scapegoats” and that are just managing to break even – despite evidence showing hospitality businesses account for only a very small percentage of overall COVID-19 cases.
Responding to Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement yesterday on further restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus, Scottish Tourism Alliance Chief Executive Marc Crothall, (pictured) said, “The First Minister’s announcement that bars, pubs and restaurants will close at 10pm from Friday will serve as a significant blow to many hundreds of businesses across Scotland who have worked hard to ensure compliance with government guidance to protect their staff, customers and to offer confidence that all possible measures have been taken to protect these groups.
“The impact that this new rule will have on restaurants in particular in terms of restricting a second seating in the evening will result in a substantial loss of revenue, as indeed it will in other areas of hospitality.
“The evidence we have seen to date shows that incidences of the virus in hospitality businesses account for only a very small percentage of overall cases and I would therefore be hopeful that the further evidence we will gather in the coming days and weeks will feed into the review of this particular measure.”
Said Stuart McPhee of the newly-formed Aberdeen Hospitality Together (AHT), “With only 5% of transmissions being related to hospitality, it really feels that our sector is becoming the scapegoats of this situation. It is our feeling that the curfew will simply move the problem and fuel house parties with no measures to manage the spread of the virus.
“This is something our sector can provide with robust guidance and test and protect procedures in place along with the approach that if any venues do not follow the guidance, they should be closed down and not the industry at large.”
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), added, “We are now staring into an abyss. A national curfew on Scotland’s bars, restaurants and late night venues will have a critical impact on those crucial later trading hours. Many of us are already trading at a loss and some members estimate that they will see their turnover plummet by more than 25% with the new measures.
“There is a real concern that the hospitality industry is being singled out for restrictions with very little evidence to support a link to coronavirus transmission. Across the SHG alone (which employs 6,000 staff) we have seen only a handful of positive cases since July.”
Marc Crothall also repeated calls for a tailored furlough package from the UK government to protect Scotland’s tourism industry, a permanent reduction in VAT to 5% beyond 2021, a business rates holiday until the end of March 2022 for all tourism businesses and a recapitalisation of borrowing – a mechanism for creating business liquidity for businesses which are quite simply running out of cash.
He did, however, welcome the announcement of additional inspection measures and enforcement to identify non-compliance.
“I have said throughout this crisis that our industry must continue to do the right thing and comply with every measure imposed on us for the good of all and to bring the virus under control. ”