‘Tough times ahead’ for licensed hospitality sector, warns SLTA, following the First Minister’s statement today.
The SLTA 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 Wilkinson added:-
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.
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.”
The First Minister today set out a timetable for the re-opening of parts of society over the next two months and the timetable for easing the restrictions can be seen here
Stay at Home regulations will be lifted on 2 April and replaced with guidance to Stay Local, with more services including hairdressers, garden centres and non-essential click and collect services able to open from 5 April.
More college students will also return to on-campus learning and outdoor contact sports will resume for 12-17 year olds on 5 April if progress on vaccination and suppression of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues.
The Scottish Government then hopes to lift all restrictions on journeys in mainland Scotland on 26 April. Discussions will be held with island communities already in lower levels on the possibility of having a faster return to more socialising and hospitality with restrictions on mainland travel to protect against importation of the virus.
Vaccination of all nine JCVI priority groups – more than half of the population, accounting for 99% of COVID-related fatalities – is expected to be completed by mid-April, supplies allowing. The dates outlined are enabled by strong new evidence that suggests vaccines reduce the chances of transmitting the virus as well as reducing serious illness and death, even after a first dose.
Further expected easing on 26 April includes:
- all retail premises, libraries, museums and galleries, tourist accommodation would be able to open
- the hospitality sector would be able to reopen outdoors for the service of alcohol, and potentially open indoors for non-alcohol service
- up to four people from two households could be able to socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant
- six people from up to three households could be able to meet outdoors and the limit on wedding and funeral attendance could be raised to 50 people
- gyms and swimming pools would be open for individual exercise and non-essential childcare would be permitted
- non-essential work in peoples’ homes and driving lessons could resume from this date
On 17 May, it is hoped that groups of four people from two households would be able to socialise indoors in a private home, and that cinemas, amusement arcades and small scale outdoor and indoor events could restart with limits on capacity. Further easing on this date would include outdoor contact sport for adults and indoor group exercise
The First Minister also indicated that in early June it is hoped that Scotland could move to Level 1 and by end of June to level 0.
Grants of up to £7,500 for retailers and up to £19,500 for hospitality and leisure businesses will be paid in April to help businesses re-open progressively. These one-off re-start grants will replace ongoing Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF) payments and will provide more money up front to help with the costs of re-opening. Eligible businesses must have applied to the SFBF by 22 March in order to receive these payments. The last four-weekly SFBF payment of up to £3,000 will be paid on 22 March, as scheduled. Targeted restart grants for businesses that are not in scope for the current SFBF support package may be considered if the Scottish Government receives further consequentials from the UK Government.