Coronavirus: What do new restrictions mean for Scottish hospitality industry?

Thousands of pubs and breweries across Scotland are at risk of permanent closure as business leaders warned that new stringent restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus in Scotland will “sound the death knell” for the hospitality industry.

Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 6:18 pm
Thousands of pubs could be at risk of closure, Camra warned.
Thousands of pubs could be at risk of closure, Camra warned.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today unveiled tough new restrictions which will see all hospitality businesses in the Central Belt of Scotland close for two weeks from Friday - while those outside of the hot-spot areas will be banned from selling alcohol inside and will be forced to stick to a 6pm curfew.

The rules will be in place for just over two weeks in a bid to stem the rising numbers of coronavirus cases, at which time the Scottish Government will review those in the Central Belt.

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A £40 million fund is to be made available to support affected businesses, but experts warned many are already struggling to survive.

CAMRA’s director for Scotland, Joe Crawford, said: “The First Minister’s announcement banning the serving of alcohol indoors for 16 days across the country - and forcing pubs in five health board areas in the Central Belt to close altogether – is absolutely devastating news for pubs and breweries.

“Publicans who have been operating at reduced rates, and who have already invested thousands of pounds of their dwindling reserves making their premises Covid-secure, now face 16 days without any turnover whatsoever. Understandably, they feel like pubs have become the scapegoat for the pandemic.

“The £40m in support for the hospitality sector is welcome and necessary, but the devil will be in the detail.

"Without proper financial compensation now - and longer-term financial support to help deal with reduced trade as a result of restrictions like the curfew - we risk seeing thousands of pubs, clubs and breweries closing for good before Christmas.”

Ms Sturgeon told Parliament that pubs in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian, Forth Valley, and Ayrshire and Arran must close for the 16-day period from 10 October until 25 October.

Elsewhere in Scotland they can only open until 6pm - and have been banned from serving alcohol.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has described the First Minister’s measures announced today as “cataclysmic” for the industry, with the fallout being hundreds of business closures and thousands of job losses.

SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “The recent introduction of the 10pm closing time plus the two-household group of six rule is having a devastating effect on the industry. Closures are looming and now today’s announcement of further restrictions and temporary lockdowns will only accelerate business failure and job losses.”

He added that bars have seen low sickness rates among staff and suggested this undermines claims the venues are a significant source of spread.

“It would appear again that Scotland’s licensed trade is the sacrificial lamb and paying the price for other sectors that do not operate under such restrictive measures as we have seen recently,” he said.

Chef Nick Nairn described the shutdown as “devastating”.

Nic Wood, owner of Signature Group, which runs more than 20 pubs and restaurants across Scotland including The Huxley in Edinburgh and The Church on the Hill in Glasgow, said the industry was being used as a “scapegoat” by the Scottish Government.

He said: “I’m gutted for my staff and our extended supply chain who rely on us for their livelihoods and those who have worked so hard to keep our customers happy and safe since we opened our doors in July.

“We have invested £250,000 in Covid-19 safety measures, training, additional staff numbers to aid service, communication, signage and other hygiene measures and this destructive force has swept the feet from under us – at a time when we weren’t exactly steady on them in the first place.

"This is a brutal blow for the sector based on circumstantial and anecdotal evidence and once again, hospitality is the scapegoat.”

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “These measures will sound the death knell for businesses across the hospitality sector, especially pubs and bars. Restaurants and hotels, whilst remaining open, will also be constrained on what they can provide and this will place a large dent in their already reduced income.

“Closures and restrictions will severely tamp down any signs of life in our town centres, particularly in the Central Belt health board areas, which have already been devastated by offices still remaining closed, cancellation of Christmas markets and other major events.”

While full business closures will only affect the Central Belt, Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) warned that a 6pm curfew will deter people from visiting rural Scotland, potentially sparking a raft of job losses in remote areas which rely on tourism.

SLE chief executive Sarah-Jane Laing said: “These new restrictions are going to cause considerable harm to jobs and businesses throughout rural Scotland. By advising everyone in Scotland’s Central Belt not to travel, where most of Scotland’s population live, we are going to see a sharp decline in domestic tourism throughout rural Scotland.

"And for those who can travel, not being able to go out for an evening meal or visit a local bar will be a major factor in holidays being cancelled.

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said the closures would have a knock-on effect down the supply chain.

He said: “We all want to suppress the virus, but there is no getting away from the fact that this is a hammer blow to Scotland’s hospitality sector and the businesses that rely on it. The ripple effects for the economy and communities shouldn’t be under-estimated.

“This may seem a short term, two-week hit, but it is targeted at businesses that are barely clinging on to survival.”

David Thomson, chief executive of Food and Drink Federation Scotland, said: “We are extremely disappointed to see the additional restrictions on Scotland's fragile hospitality and food service sector, which will of course have a knock-on impact.”

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