Scottish hospitality braced for further restrictions

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Scottish restaurants and pubs braced for further Coronavirus restrictions circuit breaker lockdown closures

Related tags Scotland Restaurant Pub lockdown Coronavirus Circuit breaker

Restaurants, pubs and bars in Scotland could face fresh restrictions and even be forced to close completely under new Coronavirus lockdown measures due to be announced later today (7 October).

First Minster Nicola Sturgeon is due to announce the updated restrictions in a statement to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.

It comes as Scotland's infection rate continues to rise, with 800 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed yesterday.

The First Minister described the situation as 'the most difficult decision point the country has faced so far', but has said the new measures will not amount to Scotland going into another lockdown as was the case in March.

There has been speculation of further restrictions on the hospitality sector, which is already reeling from the impact of the 10pm curfew on operating hours and a ban on background music.

This could include forcing restaurants, pubs and bars to temporarily close under a so-called 'circuit breaker' lockdown.

Members of the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), which comprises nine of the country’s largest independent hospitality operators and collectively employ over 6,000 people, have warned that the increased restrictions will put investment plans and jobs at risk.

They say a two week lockdown will cost their businesses more than £10m, and have called for the Government help to ensure the sector remains poised for the post-Covid recovery.

SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery, who runs two hotels in Dumfries, says that closing many of the country’s best-known venues would be 'counterproductive and not backed by science'.

“We've been warning the Government for weeks that their approach is catastrophic for an industry which is vital to the fight against Covid-19 and for local economies across the country," he says.

"A generation of young Scots could pay the price for this and we must have grant funding to ensure we can keep trading.

“At the start of September, Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop said her message to Scotland’s young people was that the Government would do everything it can to give them the opportunities they need for skills, training and employment. How are they going to do that without our viable businesses?

“Hospitality and tourism is the third biggest employer in Scotland and the major provider of jobs for young people.

"If the Government keeps imposing tighter restrictions on us it will cost jobs once furlough ends and our members will have to shelve the 27 new business or refurbishment projects they have in the pipeline. The investment of more than £30m creates extra jobs in the supply chain as well as direct employment."

Kenny Blair, who owns pub and restaurant group Buzzworks, which operates 12 sites in Ayrshire, adds that his business has already had to pause plans to open new venues in Greenock and Ayrshire because of the shutdowns and the curfew. 

"Very few other businesses are investing heavily and creating jobs in these town centres. Without the hospitality sector, there is no tourism and the impact on our largest industry would be an enormous economic blow to Scotland as hospitality is the economic and social lifeblood for many communities throughout Scotland," he says.

“We have had a string of employees worried about their jobs and their futures.

"These are dedicated, hardworking employees who are doing everything possible to protect our customers and provide them with the safest possible opportunity to socialise.

"If we are forced by the Government to close down, people will inevitably still socialise, but they will do it at home, with all the risks and all the cross-infections that will cause.”

Trade body the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has also voiced concerns, saying further restrictions must be avoided or at very least accompanied by additional economic support.

 “The prospect of further restrictions on pubs is filling our sector with complete dread," says Emma McClarkin, CEO of the SBPA.

Across Scotland, pub operators will be unable to sleep tonight for fear of what will happen to their business and their staff. This must be avoided. 

“Pubs and the wider hospitality sector in Scotland are already suffering from the additional restrictive measures currently in place.

"The ban on background music and noise from televisions has already seen trade fall of a cliff for many premises, and the 10pm curfew has had a disproportionate impact in Scotland due to the normal closing time being midnight or 1am.

"This means that every week Scottish pubs are losing as many as 21 hours more trade than pubs elsewhere in the UK.  

“If the Scottish Government is to implement further harsh restrictive measures to our sector, it must include a dedicated package of support alongside it. 

"Without it the Scottish Government will leave our pubs and thousands of jobs doomed to failure."

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