Scotland’s first Minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned the sale of alcohol indoors in pubs and restaurants and must close at 6 PM for 16 days beginning Friday, October 9
Announcing the targeted measures to the Scottish parliament today the first Minister confirmed a further 1,054 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, and said that the measures were intended to be a “short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection” and which she hoped would help to keep schools and businesses open over the winter.
For 16 days, from Friday at 6pm, all pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes are ordered to operate on a daytime-only basis, from 6am to 6pm, and for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks only. They can continue to serve alcohol outdoors up to the current curfew of 10pm.
More stringent measures have been introduced in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, the Lothians, Ayrshire and Arran and Forth Valley, with all licensed premises, with the exception of hotels for residents, required to close both indoors and outdoors, (although takeaways will be permitted). Cafes which do not have an alcohol licence will be able to stay open until 6pm.
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association has described the First Minister’s measures announced today as “cataclysmic” for the industry with the fallout being hundreds of business closures and thousands of job losses.
Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said: “The recent introduction of the 10pm closing time plus the two-household group of six rule is having a devasting effect on the industry – closures are looming and now today’s announcement of further restrictions and temporary lockdowns will only accelerate business failure and job losses.”
A recent survey highlighted that nearly 40% of hospitality businesses were considering closure or business exit. In September, an SLTA survey of 600 on-trade premises highlighted that within the pub and bar sector, 12,500 jobs could go.
Wilkinson added: “These figures have increased dramatically in only a month. When the industry reopened after lockdown and with the then restrictive measures in place, it was estimated that two-thirds of hospitality businesses could still be viable, but only just, with one-third of businesses unable to open.
“Now that figure has flipped and in our estimation two-thirds of hospitality businesses could be mothballed or go under. Over 50% of jobs in the pub and bar sector could also be lost which will have a particularly deep impact on the employment of young people as over 40% of staff employed are under the age of 25.
“Our research already tells us that many in the industry are on the precipice of business failure and these further restriction measures announced today and the much quieter winter season approaching leads us to only one conclusion: the sector is now heading into a scenario of ‘last man standing’.
“Details of the First Minster’s announcement of a £40 million financial support package are awaited but the question is: will this be enough? In our opinion the hospitality sector in general needs substantially greater and far more reaching support than has just been announced and does not come anywhere near to saving our industry.”
Mr Wilkinson concluded: “Responsible operators are running safe, carefully monitored establishments so in our opinion there is no need for the Scottish Government to ‘go further’ on pubs. Actions by governments are meant to be proportionate and evidence based and despite reference today to newly-released ‘evidence’ the industry continues to call on the Government to provide the evidence for infection rates stemming directly from the licensed trade.
“Industry figures suggest that there are very low infection rates of staff within our pubs and bars which suggests to us that the industry is doing everything that it can and is providing as safe an environment as possible – otherwise, if we were a major causal route of infection, this would surely be reflected in the infection rate of hospitality staff.
“It would appear again that Scotland’s licensed trade is the sacrificial lamb and paying the price for other sectors that do not operate under such restrictive measures as we have seen recently.”
Responding to the First Minister’s announcement for further restrictions for pubs, CAMRA’s Director for Scotland Joe Crawford said: “The First Minister’s announcement banning the serving of alcohol indoors for 16 days across the country – and forcing pubs in five health board areas in the central belt to close altogether – is absolutely devastating news for pubs and breweries.
“Publicans who have been operating at reduced rates, and who have already invested thousands of pounds of their dwindling reserves making their premises COVID-secure, now face 16 days without any turnover whatsoever. Understandably, they feel like pubs have become the scapegoat for the pandemic.
“The £40 million in support for the hospitality sector is welcome and necessary but the devil will be in the detail. Without proper financial compensation now – and longer-term financial support to help deal with reduced trade as a result of restrictions like the curfew – we risk seeing thousands of pubs, clubs and breweries closing for good before Christmas.”