Tough Times Ahead’ For Licensed Hospitality Sector, Warns SLTA

The SLTA (Scottish Licensed Trade Association) has expressed bitter disappointment after today’s announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that bars, restaurants and cafés will not be able to serve alcohol indoors when the licensed hospitality industry reopens next month.

Warning that there remain “tough times ahead” for licensed hospitality as Scotland slowly emerges from lockdown, SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “This is not the news we were hoping for. Yes, it’s good news for those bars, restaurants and cafés with suitable facilities who will be able to serve people outdoors – in groups of up to six from three households – until 10pm from 26 April.

“However, for indoor hospitality, today’s news is yet another bitter blow and we are surprised that the Scottish Government has chosen not to allow premises to sell alcohol when they reopen next month. “We of course welcome the news that from 17 May, hospitality venues will be able to open until 10.30pm indoors with alcohol permitted and, for outdoors, until 10pm.

“We welcome these indicative dates for reopening as they provide more clarity for businesses but overall, these slight lifting of restrictions don’t go far enough and, for the majority, reopening will remain unviable. We’re bitterly disappointed.”

The SLTA welcomed confirmation that on 22 March, recipients of support under the Strategic Business Framework Fund will receive a final four-week payment then in April a further combined payment of a two-week payment under the Strategic Business Framework Fund, and eligible hospitality and leisure businesses will also receive a further payment of up to £19,500 in the form of a restart grant.

But Mr Wilkinson said: “Restrictions will continue into June and beyond, leading businesses further into debt. The typical small hospitality business has taken on between £60,000 and £90,000 in bank debt and deferred bills as of February this year just to survive Covid – and the debt is rising with every week of low or no income.”

He added: “If there is a positive to come out of today’s announcement it is that we have something to work towards but that doesn’t change the fact that for a very high percentage of business, reopening in April will simply be unviable.”