‘Bittersweet’ news for licensed trade in Glasgow as city remains in Level Three and operators miss out on bank holiday weekend trading

Paul Waterson, media spokesman for the SLTA

TODAY’s news that Glasgow is to remain under Level Three coronavirus restrictions for at least another week has been described as “bittersweet” by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association as many operators continue to vent their fury over the decision to permit a month-long, 6,000-capacity fan zone in Glasgow Green for the Euro 2020 football tournament.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that a decision on whether to move the Glasgow City Council area into Level Two would be made by next Wednesday, a move welcomed by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association but one that still leaves the licensed hospitality sector “in limbo and missing out on the May bank holiday weekend trading that so many operators had hoped for”.

Paul Waterson, media spokesman for the SLTA, said: “That we will get a definitive decision next Wednesday on whether premises can move down to Level Two is good as it gives them a bit more time to get organised and we thank the Scottish Government for listening to our concerns about always being told what’s happening at the last minute.

“However, it’s bittersweet for the many pubs, bars and other licensed hospitality businesses who are still in limbo and missing out on the May bank holiday weekend trading that so many operators had hoped for and with the weather forecast promising sunshine.

“The First Minister, during today’s briefing, told Glasgow ‘don’t lose heart’ but these are pretty hollow words as the impact of staying in Level Three has a much wider impact for Scotland and the country’s tourism industry. The Government must also ensure that adequate financial support is in place.”

Earlier this week, Mr Waterson spoke of the “fury and intense anger” among licensed hospitality trade operators in the city that 6,000 people are to be permitted to converge on Glasgow Green and buy alcohol when many licensed venues that have followed the guidelines and invested in all the tools to stop the spread of the virus and operate in a safe and controlled environment remain under restriction.

“We need urgent answers as to how this fan zone is going to be policed in a situation whereby thousands of people will be drinking alcohol while watching a football match – who will be controlling physical distancing, table service and other elements that our pubs, restaurants and hotels have had to adhere to. It is just not good enough.”

David Maguire, a veteran of Glasgow’s hospitality scene and owner of 1051 GWR in Great Western Road in the city, said: “Noting the statement regarding the fragility of our recovery, the idea that the city should continue to plan to host a month-long party for 6,000 people daily is absurd.

“Highly experienced operators already wrestle with mandatory table service within existing beer gardens in Glasgow so the suggestion that 6,000 people whose purpose is to drink significant amounts of beer will be managed in a way that complies with one-metre physical distancing via table service is dangerously naive and negligent.

“Why on Earth, when we are apparently turning a corner, is the city determined to have an event which is by definition designed to spread the virus? When the numbers rise again post-event and we are locked down again the public and trade will not forget these warnings.”

Billy Gold, another well-known name in licensed trade circles and owner of the Heilan Jessie pub in Glasgow’s east end said: “If the fan zone at Glasgow Green can serve 6,000 people a day for a month, given that not that many fans are going to travel Glasgow from elsewhere just to watch a game on a big screen, the hospitality industry in the Glasgow area will be losing 6,000 potential customers a day.

“These are businesses that pay business rates and licence fees to Glasgow City Council and serve the people of Glasgow 365 days a year yet we have been forced to close for the best part of a year and now the Scottish Government is approving an idea which will rob us of a chance to claw back a tiny amount of what we have lost.”

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