Coronavirus in Scotland: Glasgow plea to let restaurants stay open

Glasgow Licensing Board has asked the Scottish Government "to allow licensed premises that serve meals to the public to remain open, even without serving alcohol".

Many premises had to shut down after the restrictions came into place.
Many premises had to shut down after the restrictions came into place.

A letter from the cross-party group at Glasgow City Council also suggests removing the definition of a "cafe" from current regulations to allow more venues to open while still protecting public health.

The group also calls for the introduction of phased closing times for different types of licensed premises, which would allow smaller groups of people to move around when leaving venues - even if a curfew remains in place after the current restrictions are lifted.

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Since October 9, bars and licensed restaurants in five health board areas including Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been forced to close for all but takeaways.

Although initially set to end on October 25, these were extended until the new five-level system is approved at Holyrood next week and comes into effect on November 2.

However no decision has yet been made on which areas of the country will feature at which level.

In the letter, the Glasgow Licensing Board chairman, Councillor Matt Kerr, says: "The Licensing Board is aware that these difficult decisions have been made based on advice and guidance received from your scientific advisers, acting in the best interests of Scotland and it fully supports all measures that seek to protect public health.

"The Licensing Board has invited and received feedback from the on-sales trade in relation to the additional Covid-19 measures, and is of the opinion that many on-sales licensed premises will struggle to remain viable and retain jobs within the industry.

"It is the Licensing Board's view that the consumption of alcohol within the regulated environment of a pub, club or restaurant is safer than the unregulated consumption of alcohol sold from off-sales.

"While the Government may not be in a position to ease restrictions at this stage of the pandemic to allow all on-sales licensed premises to open, if on-sales licensed premises that serve meals were able to remain open under the current regulations, this could help to ensure many of these regulated premises remain viable and jobs retained through this pandemic.

"In the Licensing Board's view a 'last entry/booking time' would perhaps help to minimise the number of people moving around in the city from premises to premises and would also result in a staggered dispersal of customers, helping to suppress the spread of Covid-19 by less customers leaving premises at the same time.

"It is the Board's view, that a policy of this nature, which controls the numbers of people leaving licensed premises simultaneously not only has a direct impact on policing, but also on the availability of taxis and private hire cars, public transport and late-hour catering venues.

"If any of the recommendations were taken forward by your government, all licensed premises would be required to comply with Covid-19 legislation and guidance.

"Any premises acting in contravention of these would be brought to the Licensing Board's attention and appropriate action taken."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Scotland's hospitality industry has faced unimaginable challenges this year and we have worked hard to provide critical support to the industry.

"No-one wants the restrictions in place a moment longer than needed and they are kept under review.

"We will consider all the feedback we have received and will be discussing the proposed protections in the five-level framework outlined today by the First Minister with the hospitality sector ahead of it being debated on Tuesday.”