Hospitality curfew extends to Scotland as calls for urgent sector support grow

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Hospitality restaurants pubs 10pm Coronavirus curfew in Scotland calls for urgent sector support UKHospitality

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Pubs and restaurants in Scotland have found themselves 'staring into an abyss' after Nicola Sturgeon confirmed they must close at 10pm each night from Friday (25 September).

The measures, announced by the First Minister this afternoon (22 September), are similar to those that have been imposed on hospitality venues in England​ ​by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Sturgeon said she might have gone further and closed pubs altogether, but claimed the UK Government is refusing to commit to extending wage support into the winter.

"People sometimes ask me why we don’t just close pubs again altogether - and I can understand that," she said.

“The answer, to be frank, is that we are seeking to find a balance between action to suppress the virus and the protection of people's jobs and livelihoods.

"If the Scottish Government had greater powers to borrow money, or the ability to extend the Job Retention Scheme, for example, it is possible that we could reach a different balance of judgment on some of these issues. But we don't.

"So this decision today means we can reduce the amount of time people are able to spend in licensed premises, thereby curtailing the spread of the virus, while still allowing businesses to trade and provide jobs. This is the best balance for now."

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier today, Johnson said the UK was at a 'perilous turning point' and must act.

As well as a curfew on opening operating hours, hospitality venues in England will be restricted by law to table service only; and the wearing of face masks by staff will become compulsory.

The Prime Minister said the restrictions may be in place for 'perhaps six months', which has fuelled further calls for the Government to bring forward a further package of financial support to help businesses through the long winter months.

Trade body UKHospitality has warned that job losses and business failures will be an inevitability unless support is immediate and wide-ranging.

“These restrictions are a further, potentially fatal, blow for many hospitality businesses," says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

"In isolation, they may appear moderate, but the cumulative effect is going to be hugely damaging. Consumer confidence is going to take another hit and we cannot hope to recover while confidence remains low.

“The shift back towards working from home is going to hit city centre hospitality very hard. These businesses have already lagged behind as office workers and tourists have stayed away and they are going to take another battering.

“Most disheartening is the announcement that they are potentially in place for six months. Lots of businesses will not survive this and we are going to see more and more people lose their jobs unless we have the support to counterbalance these restrictions.

 “The Government must immediately announce an exhaustive package of financial support, otherwise our sector is facing ruin. Employment support must be extended. The furlough scheme is already wining down and it comes to a complete halt at the end of October.

"Unless it is extended for our sector, businesses are inevitably going to have to make staff redundant. We are looking at a steady stream of job losses for six months, otherwise.

“We also must have longer-term support to enable businesses to rebuild in 2021. The VAT cut for the sector must be extended as must the business rates holiday. We also need a rent-debt settlement package, otherwise whole businesses are going to go under with widespread redundancies.”

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), echoes Nicholls' words, saying that the curfew leaves hospitality business north of the border 'staring into an abyss'.

“With 90,000 Scottish jobs at risk we are heading towards a cliff edge and time is running out," he says.

"We have been speaking with government and that will be ongoing but there is only a matter of months before the restrictions on our industry will have irreparable long-term damage on our sector. We are very keen to play our part but there has to be a balance.

"Without meaningful financial support from government many businesses will not survive further than Christmas.

“With tighter restrictions even more will be plunged into the red and the consequences will range from redundancies as a minimum, to the closure of individual premises right through to insolvency.

“We have made significant investment to ensure that our premises are safely operating including  enhanced hygiene measures and controlled physical distancing. We are already seeing an explosion of house parties and closing bars and restaurants at 10pm will only increase this.

“Responsible operators that offer a controlled environment are a key part of the solution. These restrictions will only force bad behaviour underground, where track and trace is almost impossible.”

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