The Scottish Hospitality Group has flagged up the necessity for the Scottish Government to immediately review and amend Level 3 by allowing hospitality to open inside until at least 10pm, rather than 8pm, for bars and restaurants to open viably and safely.
The plea follows the news earlier this week where an indicative date of 26 April has been set for reopening hospitality venues with outside areas, and the possibility of opening indoors albeit with restrictions, with the rest of hospitality given an indicative date of 17th May if all goes to plan, and areas move to a level 2.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the group explains, “We have now had time to digest the First Minister’s proposal and while we are grateful that the indicative date allows people to reopen and restart their business and start to pave the way for a better summer, however the 8pm close needs to be extended to at least 10pm, otherwise last food orders are at 6.00pm which is a real barrier to trade and customers, and will mean that very many places will be trading at a loss and will not be able to bring staff back.”
He suggests that the Scottish Government still do not have an understanding of how the mechanics of hospitality operates saying, “An 8pm close means we cannot fit in an evening service. Customers can’t rock up at 7.45pm and order a deliciously cooked steak.”
He also calls into question the ban on alcohol inside with a meal. “I cannot understand why having a glass of wine or a glass of prosecco with your meal is not allowed. All that will happen is that people will be put off coming out and continue to gather and party in their homes across the country uncontrolled. Are Scottish Government saying they do not trust either the operator or even worse the customer to obey the rules?”
“We need the Scottish government to start backing hospitality and encouraging people to come to our venues. There is no bigger risk indoors with hospitality than anywhere else. That’s not just our view that is the view of the experts too.”
He suggests that many licensed trade businesses are now a quandary. Says Montgomery, “They desperately want to open, safely, but how can they when they are financially worse off open than they were when shut?
“All the trade bodies collaborated and worked hard, to put forward a re-opening plan to the Scottish Government that was both fair to customers, and businesses. It allowed us to look after our customer’s safety and operate viably – that was one of the reasons we included the two-hour time slots. While hospitality and tourism are interlinked – hospitality is a completely different issue with different needs and requirements, and that’s why the government need to come to us directly to talk about hospitality.”
He is disappointed too that the Scottish Government did not discuss the changes to the grants with the trade bodies before releasing the details. “We haven’t been consulted on finance in any way this time at all. For businesses that have to remain closed like late-night venues, city centre bars or nightclubs, this money is going to run out very quickly.”
Montgomery also warns that detailed guidance is required before parliament rises on 25th March. He says, “Work on the guidance with hospitality representatives has to start now and I sincerely hope that the Scottish government does not leave it until the last minute, which has been the history of the last year, and something we have raised many times. Hospitality businesses have to be able to plan and we need to know the details in the guidance.”
He concludes, “We certainly don’t want to end up with a legal battle in Scotland like Sasha Lord is embarking on in England. But I suppose if we really have to that is one route we would take.”