Scotland’s Pubs Face ‘Unprecedented Challenges’ as Sector Calls for Urgent Increased Government Support

The (SLTA) Scottish Licensed Trade Association today releases a snapshot survey of the challenges facing Scotland’s pubs and bars.

This latest survey, which represents over 10% of Scotland’s on trade premises and contains key insights into the significant impacts of a tide of unprecedented challenges, highlights that nine in 10 outlets will need government support to survive the winter.

Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said:
“Our snapshot survey covers all types of licensed premises and is an indicator of the key issues facing the wide range of small to large businesses which trade within the wider hospitality sector.

“Our survey is based upon quantitative research from over 600 outlets covering the length and breadth of the country and is supported by major food and drink chains and independent pubs, bars and hotels in Scotland’s hospitality sector.

“Many of our respondents are still carrying significant Covid debt and are dealing with the challenges of Brexit, but we are now facing even bigger hurdles with rising costs, staff shortages and enormous increases to energy costs – with one in four anticipating an increase in energy costs of over 500%, despite the Chancellor’s announcement on capping wholesale energy prices.”

Mr Wilkinson warned:
“For many outlets it won’t be economically viable to remain open and one in 10 of our respondents plan to close during the winter months and nearly one in two expect to reduce opening hours. Our sector is a crucial part of the tourism industry and reduced opening hours will have a knock-on impact for Scotland’s wider food and drink sector, and for employment within the sector.

“Our pubs and bars have worked very hard post-Covid and Brexit to showcase Scotland’s hospitality industry, but with a tsunami of rising costs and low consumer confidence we urgently call on local and national governments to help us through the winter.

“We must protect the jobs that outlets provide directly and the associated jobs in the wholesaling, brewing/distilling and food-producing sectors.”

Executive summary of key challenges

• Staffing: 40% of outlets are employing significantly fewer staff, while recruitment post-Brexit remains an issue
• Trading Conditions: 5% of outlets have not re-opened post-Covid, while 50% are trading at significantly lower levels than pre-Covid
• Covid Debt: one in two of hospitality outlets are carrying significant Covid-related debt
• Rising Costs: particularly energy which business owners have identified as the biggest threat to their businesses. One in four of venues are facing an increase in energy cost of over 500%
• Economic Outlook: with rising energy costs, 45% of outlets expect to reduce their opening hours which will impact on tourism and employment
• Government Support: support is urgently needed, with 87% of outlets requesting government support to survive the winter