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Hospitality Sector Faces Further Restrictions

Hospitality sector faces further restrictions

The First Minister announced today that due to the urgent threat posed by Omicron’s much higher transmissibility than other variants of coronavirus (COVID-19), additional targeted measures to minimise contacts will come into force for at least three weeks to allow immunity from the accelerated booster vaccine programme to take effect.

All measures will be reviewed after three weeks on Tuesday 11th of January

From 05:00 on 27th December, there will be a requirement for one metre physical distancing between customer groups, in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings, including pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and other settings where food and drink is served for consumption on-site.

Table service will be required in settings where alcohol is served for consumption on the premises.

In addition, from 05:00 on 26th December, attendance at large events will be limited to 100 people for indoor standing events, to 200 people for indoor seated events and to 500 people for all outdoor events seated or standing. Organisers of large professional sporting fixtures will have discretion over whether to admit spectators up to these limits.

In response to the First Minister’s announcement today of further restrictions and increased financial support for businesses, Scottish Licensed Trade Association Managing Director, Colin Wilkinson said:-

“This afternoon’s announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that pubs and other hospitality venues selling alcohol must reintroduce table service and one-metre physical distancing between groups of customers from December 27 for a period of three weeks could well be the knock-out blow for many in the battered and bruised licensed hospitality sector in Scotland

The limit of 100 people for indoor standing events and 200 for indoor seating events – although this does not apply to private life events such as weddings – will hugely impact on the late-night industry which has been hit particularly hard since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the cancellation of large-scale events such as Edinburgh’s Hogmanay will have a knock-on effect on the licensed hospitality sector.

However, the damage was done when Public Health Scotland advised deferring Christmas parties until another time. Endorsed by the Scottish Government the next day, this led to a slew of cancellations and, effectively, the end of any chance the licensed hospitality sector of clawing back lost business at what is traditionally the busiest trading period of the year.

That said, the key focus for the Scottish Government must now be to ensure that the £66 million aid package announced last week for the hospitality sector is made available as soon as possible.”

The SLTA is particularly angered that part of the previously announced £100m funding will not be specifically directed to those businesses that need it the most.

Businesses such as cafes, takeaways and even multinational fast-food outlets which have not experienced the decimation that has been caused to the licensed hospitality sector at this vital trading period will now receive the same level of support funding as those hit by the PHS messaging to defer Christmas parties in Scotland’s pubs, bars and restaurants.

New research from the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) shows that:-

  • Average sales are down 52% across the sector in December so far, with the average loss of income now £56,000 per premises for the first two weeks of December alone, and this trend is accelerating.
  • Half of premises reported more than 50% of jobs are at risk while 20% of premises report 90% or more of jobs are at immediate risk – these figures are as worrying as they are startling.
  • When asked how long they can survive without the arrival of cash support, 43% said they can survive less than one month, 25% can survive up to two months, 20% can survive up to three months and 12% can survive up to four months.
  • This is the stark reality of the situation for Scotland’s licensed hospitality sector. Many are also carrying huge debt as a direct result of Covid – bars are averaging £169,200 debt, nightclubs/hybrids/event spaces are averaging £167,000 while pubs are averaging a Covid debt of £101,600.

Wilkinson continued:-

“It is utterly indefensible that taking into account the crisis the licensed hospitality sector and the supply sector is facing, the losses that have occurred within the industry in December alone and the bleak future facing operators and staff, other businesses will effectively receive a ‘bonus’ from the public purse”.

We understand the original £100m funding will be available in early January and the distribution of the additional funding of £275m announced today, will become available towards the end of January.

New Government operating guidelines for the sector will be published soon, but they will be towards the latter half of the week leaving little time for operators and staff to adjust to the new regulations.”

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