The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), has revealed that its members have served 1,867,000 customers since venues reopened – with only 17 confirmed cases recorded amongst customers and staff.
The group whose members include The DRG Group, Buzzworks Holdings, Signature Pubs, Montpeliers, Manorview Group, Lisini Pub Co, Caledonia Inns, G1 Group, Siberia Bar & Hotel, Mor-Rioghain Group, and Caledonian Heritable is now calling on politicians to recognise the crucial role which the industry can play in helping combat the spread of Covid-19.
A new study by Public Health England showed that pubs and restaurants were responsible for less than 3% of infections in the run-up to the curfew being imposed south of the border last weekend, compared with schools and care homes, which accounted for over two thirds of all positive tests.
Stephen Montgomery (pictured), spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, whose members employ over 6,000 people, warned that tighter curfews and shutdowns would dramatically increase the spread of the outbreak as people would simply continue to socialise at home.
He said, “Bars and restaurants are a crucial part of the solution to combat Covid, not the problem. If they are closed down, even for a short time, all the evidence shows that people will simply socialise at home, without any of the safeguards we’ve spent months implementing.
“Our sector is the most regulated in the country and is the only safe place left where people can socialise. Between them, our members have served over 1.8 million customers since reopening after the lockdown and have recorded a total of 17 confirmed cases of Covid. That shows how rigorously we have been implementing the rules and how counter-productive it would be to impose further restrictions.
“The current curfew is not the answer, as we have all seen. It leads to overcrowding in the streets, on public transport and to more house parties, which are major sources of infection. Police Scotland broke up 300 house parties last weekend alone and that will only be the tip of the iceberg.”
The group has written to senior politicians including the First Minister, Cabinet Secretaries and Holyrood Committee Convenors calling on them to see for themselves the comprehensive steps that hard-working staff are taking to protect customers.
Mr Montgomery, who operates two well-known hotels in Dumfries & Galloway, said: “Our sector has an absolutely vital part to play in combatting this virus. We have bent over backwards to ensure staff and customers are protected, with huge efforts being made by the vast majority of responsible operators in social distancing, PPE, track and trace and other hygiene measures.
“If we close down bars and restaurants, all the evidence shows that people will just find a way to socialise in their homes. It is absolutely essential that we remain open to provide a safe haven for communities across the country.
“We would urge politicians to visit our premises to see for themselves just how much effort has been put in to make Scotland’s bars and restaurants safe and secure places for people to come together.
“As well as the public health risks of shutting down the Scottish hospitality sector, the economic cost will be catastrophic for an industry worth £10.6 billion to the Scottish economy annually and which employs 285,000 people. Many of those jobs will be lost forever if businesses which are already on their knees are forced to close.
“We are urging politicians of all parties to protect the sector to enable us to protect our communities.”