Why is alcohol still not being allowed inside hospitality?

nicola sturgeon

The news that lockdown measures are being relaxed a week earlier and that the Scottish Government has updated the levels to allow more mixing has had a cautious welcome from the trade.

The First Minister announced yesterday that travel restrictions will be lifted from Friday 16th, and that when hospitality does open on the 26th:

  • Wedding receptions up to 50 people can now have alcohol as can funeral receptions
  • Outdoors, 6 people from 6 households can meet (up from 6/3)
  • Indoors, 6 people from 2 households can meet (up from 4/2)

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said, “This news will be welcomed by many but it doesn’t change anything for the vast majority of hospitality providers. In fact, we’re more confused than ever at a decision that makes no sense. We’ve argued for a sensible relaxing of the alcohol rules for many months now, so it’s ridiculous that this is only being applied to all-day weddings but not other indoor socialising. You can toast the bride and groom in the function suite but you can’t have a glass of wine on a first date in the restaurant next door.

“We again urge ministers to consider and introduce the very sensible measures we’ve put forward that will allow pubs, hotels and restaurants to begin the long road to recovery while providing safer spaces for socialising. The Scottish Government has confirmed there’s no specific evidence for the restrictions on hospitality so let’s have a bit of fairness for the thousands of people working in the sector.”

Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) CEO Emma McClarkin said, “This is a positive announcement for our sector but unfortunately falls short of what is required to make licensed premises viable. We desperately need a return to licensing hours indoors, as well as allowing alcohol to be sold indoors from 26 April. The First Minister points to indoor reopening being ahead of England, but without alcohol service it is meaningless to licensed hospitality businesses and little comfort to Scottish brewers and other parts of the supply chain who will see no benefit.  

“Whilst many sectors are allowed to return to near normal at Level 3, retaining a curfew makes trading exceptionally difficult for Scotland’s pubs and bars who feel they are being unfairly targeted by these restrictions. Businesses require certainty but unfortunately our sector will have to wait until the Government allows us to fully reopen before the recovery truly begins.”

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said,The First Minister’s announcement of a significant easing of restrictions in terms of the reopening of our tourism industry across all parts of Scotland on 26th April will I know come as a huge relief and be welcomed by thousands of businesses across the sector.

“This is positive and critically important news, particularly for our island communities who have had an extremely anxious and concerning period awaiting news on whether or not their easing of restrictions would be aligned with the mainland.  As the First Minister was making the announcement the STA received a flood of emails from tourism businesses in our island communities conveying relief that they can now plan and accept bookings from 26th April.

“Gaining clarity around the lifting of restrictions in the islands and the wider issue of travel to and within Scotland has largely been the focus on the STA over the past few weeks; today’s announcement will start to lift a heavy weight from the shoulders of a sector which has been operating in crisis mode for the best part of a year and until recently, has been without a clear indication of when businesses can welcome guests from across Scotland and importantly, the UK.

“Having the surety of permitted travel across Scotland and the UK will provide thousands of accommodation providers with the ability to offer assurance to guests who have already booked and those looking to holiday in Scotland over the coming weeks and months. Our tourism sector is dependent on 70% of the domestic market and today’s news will come as a massive boost for many businesses who rely so much on attracting visitors from all parts of the UK.

“While many hospitality businesses will not be able to operate as they would wish within the coming weeks in relation to guidance around social distancing and alcohol, I know that the First Minister’s announcement will bolster many hundreds of accommodation providers, other hospitality businesses and their suppliers who have been so keen to get going and welcome guests back after so many months of being closed.

Covid-19 restrictions on travelling around Scotland will be lifted from Friday 16th April to allow people to meet up with friends and family outdoors but with no overnight stays allowed, and people will be allowed to meet in groups of up to six adults from six households in outdoor settings,

She said that measures were being eased earlier than planned to help people’s mental health and that they are driven by data and continuing reductions in cases and deaths and the roll out of the vaccine.