The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has demanded that the Scottish Government ‘tweak the tiers’ or publish the scientific evidence behind the restrictions on trading hours after Nicola Sturgeon moved Fife, Perth and Kinross and Angus up to Level 3 yesterday meaning that operators must once again revise their plans for staffing and stock.
Among them is five-star Gleneagles Hotel which is set to close on Friday until February.
In response to a direct Scottish Government request for industry feedback, SHG suggested an extension in trading hours in tiers 2 and 3 to 10pm as there is no scientific evidence to support forcing premises to close their doors at 6pm or 8pm. By extending opening times by just a few hours, it means businesses can operate a full dinner service and bring in enough money to cover fixed costs such as rent, furlough contributions, and staff pension payments.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said, “Remaining in the current tiers, or even worse moving up a tier, is a sucker punch for hard-working hospitality staff who face losing their jobs. The government asked us for refinements to the current restrictions that would protect the public and allow us to trade viably. We provided those recommendations, but they were completely ignored.”
Marc Crothall, CEO Scottish Tourism Alliance said of the Gleneagles closure, “I have been having conversations with hoteliers the length and breadth of the country and many are doing similar. The costs of remaining open and providing a total experience which the customer expects, with limitations and uncertainty are too high.”
SHG has also warned that time is running out to save Christmas for families and businesses across Scotland, with continued deep uncertainty about what this year’s festive season could look like.
Businesses are calling for more help in the short- to medium-term to prevent closures and redundancies.
Nic Wood, Director of the Signature Pub Group, said, “The more viable we can be then the less of a burden we will be on the country and we will still provide safe places for people to socialise. Were it not for furlough, 75,000 people in the central belt would have lost their jobs this week. But the businesses that employ these people still need support to cover the furlough contribution and fixed costs.
“The Scottish Government must sit up and listen to what industry is saying to them or the majority of hospitality businesses, particularly the small, independent operators without deep pockets, will not be here past Christmas. Just tweaking the guidance slightly will save thousands of jobs and save the taxpayer millions while still giving the public a safe place to meet friends and family.”
On average for SHG members, the government grant aid is £5100 less A WEEK than it costs to run each venue (average costs are £5800 per week and the average grant is £700 per week). That means the group as a whole is losing £1m every week of being obliged to shut or unable to trade viably.
The figures are even worse when including the costs of shutdown, e.g. wasted stock. These are an average of £2400 per venue. Adding the shutdown costs means weekly losses rise to £1.5m across the group.
Stephen Montgomery added, “We have also repeatedly raised the staggering shortfall in financial support for a vital Scottish industry. Once again, businesses are having to plan how they and their staff can survive. If the government won’t let us trade viably, then it must honour its promises to provide sufficient grant support for viable operations.”