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SLTA News And Updates 7th October

SLTA News and Updates 7th October

Doomsday Scenario for Scotland’s Hospitality Sector following First Minister’s Announcement.

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.

In her announcement the First Minister said:-

The measures on hospitality are intended to be in force for 16 days, from Friday at 6pm to Sunday 25 October inclusive – in other words across the next two weeks and three weekends.

So, firstly, with the exception of the five health board areas I will talk about shortly – pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to operate indoors on the following very restricted basis only:

During the day, from 6am to 6pm, for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks only.Hotel restaurants will be able to operate beyond 6pm, but only for residents and without alcohol.

The reason we are not closing indoor hospitality completely is that we know the benefits, in terms of reducing loneliness and isolation, of giving people – particularly those who live alone – somewhere they can meet a friend for a coffee and a chat. But the restrictions will be strictly applied. And all the current regulations and the limits on meeting a maximum of 6 people from 2 households in indoor public places will still apply.

Again with the exception of the central belt areas I will mention shortly, bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can continue to serve alcohol outdoors up to the existing curfew time of 10pm, and subject to the 6/2 rule on group size. There will be an exemption to these rules – in all parts of Scotland – it’s important to stress this, for celebrations associated with specific life events such as weddings that are already booked and funerals. The current rules for those will continue to apply. These are the new measures that will take effect nationwide. However, because of higher levels of infection in the central belt, we are introducing stricter restrictions in the following five health board areas – Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley.

In these areas, all licensed premises – with the exception of hotels for residents – will be required to close indoors and outdoors, though takeaways will be permitted. Hotels will remain open for residents. Cafes which don’t have an alcohol license will be able to stay open until 6pm to support social isolation.

A full copy of the First Minister’s speech can be found here.

In responding to the announcement 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 devasting 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 go.

These figures have increased dramatically in only a month. When the industry reopened after lockdown and with the then restrictive measures in place, it was estimated that two-thirds of hospitality businesses could still be viable, but only just, with one-third of businesses unable to open.

Now that figure has flipped and in our estimation two-thirds of hospitality businesses could be mothballed or go under. Over 50% of jobs in the pub and bar sector could also be lost which will have a particularly deep impact on the employment of young people as over 40% of staff employed are under the age of 25.

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.

Details of the First Minster’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.  The SLTA will be working with the Scottish Government on how this funding will be distributed to those affected by today’s announcement.

Responsible operators are running safe, carefully monitored establishments so in our opinion there is no need for the Scottish Government to ‘go further’ on pubs. Actions by governments are meant to be proportionate and evidence based and despite reference today to newly released “evidence paper” the industry continues to call on the Government to provide the evidence for infection rates stemming directly from the licensed trade.

Industry figures suggest that there are very low infection rates of staff within our pubs and bars which suggests to us that the industry is doing everything that it can and is providing as safe an environment as possible – otherwise, if we were a major causal route of infection, this would surely be reflected in the infection rate of hospitality staff.

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.

Further details will be made available from the SLTA as soon as they are available.

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