Pubs & Bars ‘at Risk of Being Forgotten’, Say Hospitality Trade Bodies

Scotland’s three major hospitality trade associations, the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA), Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), and UKHospitality Scotland (UKHS) have called on the Scottish Government not to exclude pubs from their current proposals which would see other hospitality premises, like restaurants have greater flexibility with on-street seating.

As part of the Scottish Government’s Permitted Development Rights consultation (which closed 4 Aug), it is proposed that outdoor restaurant seating could be permitted without a planning application. Under the current proposal however, it would only apply to restaurants and other businesses currently operating as a class 3 businesses (food & drink for consumption on the premises) not pubs or bars. This is due to pubs and bars being classified differently, despite the fact many are now indistinguishable from restaurants and other hybrid venues.

In their submissions to the Scottish Government’s consultation, all three trade associations joined together in their call and have today said that Scotland’s pubs and bars can’t be forgotten about.

Commenting, Paul Togneri of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said:

“This should be a no brainer for the Scottish Government. Since the planning use classes came into effect, the hospitality industry has changed massively. Many pubs and bars provide almost identical services to restaurants and should be able to benefit from the same relaxation being offered to them.

“In normal times, the sector is a powerhouse of the Scottish economy, contributing £1.4bn annually and supporting 54,000 jobs. In addition, every local pub creates on average £100k every year for their local economies. To get the sector and city centres thriving again post-covid, we need support, and this sort of change can be a huge boost to thousands of SMEs across the country.

“We saw a relaxation of planning for outdoor areas during the pandemic which gave many premises the ability to trade through an exceptionally difficult period. We’re glad that the Government are now seeking to make some of those relaxations permanent, but it needs to be for the whole of hospitality. Pubs and bars are at risk of being forgotten about.”

Scottish Licensed Trade Association Managing Director Colin Wilkinson said:

“The Scottish Licensed Trade Association fully supports measures that will aid the road to recovery for the licensed hospitality sector and also help to regenerate our town and city centres, but these proposals must cover all licensed hospitality businesses.

“The current exclusion of pubs and bars from the Permitted Development Rights proposal, in our view, is nothing short of discriminatory. Over the last few years pubs and bars have become restaurants and restaurants have become pubs and bars and in operational terms and service offering there is, in our opinion, little to distinguish from the two. If pubs and bars remain excluded from the PDR for moveable furniture we can only see a raft of applications for change of use to a restaurant to avoid this discriminatory measure.

“Our sector is extremely envious of the recent development in England where hospitality venues can now benefit from the ability to erect a non-permanent outdoor structure, subject to a number of restrictions and conditions, without planning permission or associated costs. It is incumbent on the Scottish Government to support “all” sectors of the Scottish licensed hospitality industry in this same manner.”

UKHospitality Scotland Executive Director Leon Thompson said:

“UKHospitality Scotland has consistently called for businesses to be able to make greater use of outdoor space and is supportive of the Scottish Government’s proposal to do this. This move will help the hospitality industry as it works towards recovery, with greater ability to welcome more guests at peak times and appeal to a greater number of customers, as many people prefer and enjoy being seated outside.

“However, it is important that pubs and bars are also included in this proposal, not only restaurants and cafes. As well as the support this would give to these licensed premises, it will avoid confusion in deciding what is a pub and what isn’t, with many businesses classified as pubs now involved in selling food.

“Last month England made pavement licenses permanent, providing potentially business-saving opportunities to hundreds of pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes. Scotland’s hospitality businesses should have access to at least the same generous terms.”