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Swift reaction to new hospitality restrictions in Scotland

The Scottish Government has today announced  pub closures in central areas, and 6pm curfews in other places. These measures will come into force at 6pm on Friday, lasting for 16 days until 25 October.


Commenting on today’s announcement, UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “This is a total catastrophe. Scottish hospitality is already on the brink and is unable to look ahead with any degree of confidence.


“Forced closures will spell the end for many, many venues which have no cash flow and will have exhausted their reserves. Severe restrictions to those businesses not forced to close will amount to a closure for many. It is likely to be the final straw for many that were only just hanging on. We are going to see businesses fold and many jobs lost.


“The First Minister stated that hospitality was by far the most impacted of sectors and we now need urgent confirmation of the details of the support package and how it will be applied. Without detail, it looks as though the £40m announced by the First Minister will not nearly be sufficient to support the sector. Any support to underwrite furlough will have to go far beyond the Job Support Scheme, which seems unlikely to be taken up by many hospitality businesses.


“We also need a route map for those businesses in the five health board areas across the central belt forced to close. We must have a clear plan for their reopening. We cannot afford to be left in limbo. It will just mean businesses unable to plan, employees worried for their jobs, consumer confidence shattered and businesses all the more likely to fail. The Government has to move quickly to save businesses and keep jobs alive.”


Commenting, CEO of the SBPA, Emma McClarkin said:  “These harsh new restrictions will deliver a knockout blow for many of Scotland’s much-loved pubs and the communities they serve. We entirely understand and appreciate the difficult situation of the government and the need to continue to take measures to suppress the virus, but we question the fairness and wisdom of these restrictions and the level of financial support available to help our sector through this. 


“As the first minister acknowledged, the pub and wider hospitality industry has worked incredibly hard, going above and beyond in implementing measures to provide safe and regulated places for communities to socialise in. We therefore question the proportionality of the 16-day total ban on alcohol consumption indoors in every pub and hospitality venue across Scotland, resulting in the loss of many pubs’ primary income stream. This is in addition to the total closure of all pubs and hospitality venues in the central belt of Scotland.  


“Pubs across the country provide a safe regulated environment for people to socialise in, but also increasingly as a space to work or study. The small number which can continue to operate with these restrictions will do so, but unfortunately without an ability to sell any alcohol, most are unlikely to be viable. 


“The financial support on offer is of course welcome, but it does not go nearly far enough. For the majority of premises, the available funds will not even come close to covering the required furlough contributions for the period, never mind ongoing fixed costs and stock. We need to review the financial support on offer and work with government to protect as many pubs, jobs and livelihoods as possible.   


“We also must not overlook the impact this will have on brewers, who have already seen around 50% of their on-trade business disappear this year. The knock-on effect of these new restrictions will be felt keenly among Scotland’s brewers. As a result, there will now likely be further redundancies and jobs lost within our sector.  


Nick MacKenzie, CEO of Greene King, which has 240 pubs in Scotland and 2500 employees, said:  “Today’s shut-down of Scottish pubs is a devastating blow for the thousands of people who work in the industry. We understand that decisive action needs to be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We have invested millions of pounds in ensuring that our pubs are safe and only had six Test and Protect requests from NHS Scotland in total across our 125 managed pubs since we reopened on 15 July, having served millions of customers. It is time to stop unfairly targeting pubs. 


“The sector has already seen pub closures and job losses and a second shut-down will see more closures and lost jobs in every Scottish community. We welcome the acknowledgement that support is needed but are concerned that £40m won’t go far enough and urgently need to understand the detail and the speed this can be deployed.” 


James Calder, SIBA Chief Executive “Pubs and small breweries are in a fragile state because of the Covid crisis and for many this sudden shut down in Scotland will be the final blow. A two week shut down will mean fresh cask beer will have to be destroyed in pub cellars, with pubs or small breweries footing the bill, and the beer supply chain from breweries into pubs must once again come to a dead stop.


Small breweries lost 82% of their sales with the closure of pubs during the National lockdown and have been struggling through the summer at around 50% of their normal sales. Devastatingly two small breweries a week have been shutting up for good.


The Scottish Government needs to urgently publish the full evidence for this lockdown and guarantee that small breweries will be eligible for the financial assistance package.”


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.”