New restrictions imposed today by the Scottish Government have effectively closed the Scottish licensed trade for the next 16 days, ‘signing a death sentence’ for the hospitality industry in Scotland says Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group. A view shared by Emma McClarkin, CEO of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, who called it ‘a knockout blow’.
It will be ‘devastating” for the industry, added Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance
Although the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon offered a £40m support package for affected businesses, she failed to announce any details of how it would be distributed saying she needed a few days to consult with industry.
The restrictions, which come into force on Friday (9th October) will see all premises with alcohol licenses in the central belt – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Forth Valley and Lothian areas completely prohibited from opening. While the rest of licensed premises in Scotland can only open indoors until 6pm, without alcohol, but they can still serve alcohol outside until 10pm.
The restrictions will remain in force until 25th October.
Montgomery said in a statement, “The First Minister has effectively signed a death sentence for many businesses across the Scottish hospitality industry, while the real problem is socialising at home. We have repeatedly implemented the safety measures required by Government and more to protect our customers and staff. We are part of the solution to combat this virus not part of the problem.
“This latest blow from the Scottish Government will create fear and anger across our industry. This is not a “short, sharp shock”, rather a crippling stranglehold that will result in many Scottish pubs and restaurants unable to reopen in lockdown areas if this becomes indefinite.
“Although some premises may remain open, banning alcohol indoors will mean that many smaller businesses, family-operated and at the heart of local Scottish communities, will not survive past winter and the longer-term impact will be felt for years to come.
“We have repeatedly asked for scientific data from the Scottish Government to validate these escalating restrictions and yet we have been singled out, charged and found guilty without any supporting evidence. Similarly, there is no evidence that alcohol is a transmitter of coronavirus, yet people can eat out in a restaurant but will now be refused the choice of a glass of wine with their meal. We understand that restrictions have to be put in place but decisions must be based on evidence, anything else is disproportionate and unfair.”
McClarkin said, “We entirely understand and appreciate the difficult situation of the government and the need to continue to take measures to suppress the virus, but we question the fairness and wisdom of these restrictions and the level of financial support available to help our sector through this.
“As the First Minister acknowledged, the pub and wider hospitality industry has worked incredibly hard, going above and beyond in implementing measures to provide safe and regulated places for communities to socialise in.
“Pubs across the country provide a safe regulated environment for people to socialise in, but also increasingly as a space to work or study. The small number that can continue to operate with these restrictions will do so, but unfortunately without an ability to sell any alcohol, most are unlikely to be viable.
“The financial support on offer is of course welcome, but it does not go nearly far enough. For the majority of premises, the available funds will not even come close to covering the required furlough contributions for the period, never mind ongoing fixed costs and stock.”
Crothall said, “The details of the new restrictions are nothing short of devastating for the majority of those operating in our hospitality industry. The sector has invested significantly in adapting premises to create a safe experience for customers, adhering to government guidance and many have gone beyond this to maintain confidence with visitors and staff.
“We are acutely aware of the delicate balance between protecting public health and the economy; the reality is however that many businesses will not be able to trade at a level over the next few weeks which would sustain them through the next couple of months and may not be economically viable beyond this year.
“Whilst many people will be relieved that they can get away on a holiday over the half-term break, businesses have already reported they are taking cancellation calls and expect to see more over the coming days, impacting all areas of the sector, including the supply chain.”
Nick Mackenzie, Greene King CEO, said, “Today’s shut-down of Scottish pubs is a devastating blow for the thousands of people who work in the industry. We understand that decisive action needs to be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We have invested millions of pounds in ensuring that our pubs are safe and only had six Test and Protect requests from NHS Scotland in total across our 125 managed pubs since we reopened on 15 July, having served millions of customers. It is time to stop unfairly targeting pubs.
“The sector has already seen pub closures and job losses and a second shut-down will see more closures and lost jobs in every Scottish community. We welcome the acknowledgement that support is needed but are concerned that £40m won’t go far enough and urgently need to understand the detail and the speed this can be deployed.”
Takeaways including those from pubs and restaurants can continue throughout Scotland.