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Scotland's tough new restrictions described as 'a death sentence' for many businesses

07 October 2020 by
Scotland's tough new restrictions described as 'a death sentence' for many businesses

New restrictions in Scotland, including a 6pm curfew, curbs on the sale of alcohol and a closure order for some regions, have been described a "death sentence" for many hospitality businesses.

For 16 days from 6pm on Friday (9 October) to Sunday 25 October, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés in Scotland will be able to operate indoors on a restricted basis only, from 6am-6pm for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Hotel restaurants can operate beyond 6pm but can only serve residents and no alcohol. Businesses can continue to serve alcohol outdoors until the existing curfew of 10pm, and the rule of six will continue to apply.

This is with the exception of ‘celebrations associated with life events', such as weddings that have already been booked and funerals, where the current rules will continue to apply, across all areas of Scotland.

Even stricter measures will be in place during this timeframe in Scotland's five central belt health authorities, where there are "significantly higher levels of infection", including Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran. In these areas, all licensed premises must close outdoors and indoors, although hotels can remain open for residents. Takeaway services will be permitted, and cafés without an alcohol licence will be able to stay open until 6pm.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: "The First Minister has effectively signed a death sentence for many businesses across the Scottish hospitality industry, while the real problem is socialising at home. We have repeatedly implemented the safety measures required by government and more to protect our customers and staff. We are part of the solution to combat this virus not part of the problem.

We are part of the solution to combat this virus not part of the problem.

"This latest blow from the Scottish government will create fear and anger across our industry. This is not a ‘short, sharp shock' – rather a crippling stranglehold that will result in many Scottish pubs and restaurants unable to reopen in lockdown areas if this becomes indefinite."

There will be no travel restrictions and Sturgeon said the government is not insisting people cancel any half-term breaks, but advised against unnecessary travel either into or out of the central belt.

As a result of the new restrictions, £40m will be made available immediately to support affected businesses over the next two weeks and Sturgeon said the government will be discussing with companies how "some or all" of their contribution towards furloughed staff over the next month can be mitigated.

She said these were "important but temporary" measures, with numbers rising across the country, in the hope that "tough but necessary" action now will prevent stricter measures coming into place later. Since yesterday an additional 1,054 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Scotland.

She added: "I know that the vast majority of pubs, bars and restaurants have worked exceptionally hard over the past few months to ensure the safety of their staff and customers." She went on to explains that the measures are "an essential part of our efforts to get the R number below one", by reducing opportunities for the virus to spread while keeping businesses "as open as possible".

Sturgeon said that clinical evidence published today showed that current measures are "not sufficient" in preventing the spread of the virus: "We need to do more and we need to do now".

As part of contact tracing, more than one-fifth of people report having visited a hospitality setting, with Sturgeon saying that while "it doesn't absolutely mean that's where they got the virus... it does show that these setting pose a particular risk."

She also said the R number appears to have risen above one approximately three weeks following the reopening of hospitality.

Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative leader, said the "bare minimum" hospitality businesses, which are "running on empty", could expect is for a package of support to be spelled out at the same time as the measures are announced.

In response Sturgeon said that in other areas of the UK "there has been a tendency to keep hospitality businesses open but restrict more and more what they do. We have decided to take a more honest position and to put more restrictions on hospitality but offer support."

She said the Scottish government would be taking "a day or two" to consult with the hospitality industry on how the £40m support package previously mentioned for affected businesses should be allocated and distributed.

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."

Severe restrictions to those businesses not forced to close will amount to a closure for many

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 devastating 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 be lost.

Wilkinson added: "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'.

The sector is now heading into a scenario of ‘last man standing

"Details of the First Minister's announcement of a £40m 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.

"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."

Owner of the Signature pub group, Nic Wood, said: "I'm gutted for my staff and our extended supply chain who rely on us for their livelihoods and those who have worked so hard to keep our customers happy and safe since we opened our doors in July.

"We have invested £250,000 in Covid-19 safety measures, training, additional staff numbers to aid service, communication, signage and other hygiene measures and this destructive force has swept the feet from under us – at a time when we weren't exactly steady on them in the first place. This is a brutal blow for the sector based on circumstantial and anecdotal evidence and once again, hospitality is the scapegoat."

Roberta Hall, chef-patron of the Little Chartoom restaurant in Edinburgh, said: "It's quite a daunting time, the support that was mentioned is really unclear and will leave a lot of businesses worried until more information is announced. I think this is even worse than the initial lockdown, back then we had the full furlough scheme and decent government support packages. I am not really surprised by the announcement as many other countries are testing this too.

"We will be keeping our delivery service going and offering everyone who has booked in with us over the next two weeks a takeaway meal. We will also be re-opening our pop-up, the Little Chartroom on the Prom this weekend. This will help us keep our staff and our heads above water."

Jill Chalmers, managing director of Glenapp Castle, said: "Following the announcement we have had at least a dozen guests calling us to move or cancel their bookings. The team at the hotel have been thrown in to chaos trying to navigate the new restrictions. The number of grey areas within these rules are seriously problematic, why do the government make these detrimental announcements without consulting the hospitality sector?

"This period is a critical time for the hotel, as half-term is one of our peak holiday periods in the year. Nicola Sturgeon has ultimately created a wall around Scotland preventing both the non-Scottish and local Scottish staycation markets, which are critical for us."

Chef Tom Kitchin said: "The new restrictions introduced in Scotland are catastrophic. A lot of businesses in the hospitality industry have only just come back through the initial lockdown by the skin of their teeth. Although we are grateful for the rates relief, VAT reduction and job retention scheme, people were relying on the trade around the October break.

"The impact on the supply chain will lead to further closures and job losses. Myself and my fellow hospitality colleagues have worked so incredibly hard to provide a safe environment for people to dine out to also regain a bit of normality in their lives, but this now feels like the final nail in the coffin for many."

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