SCOTTISH licensed trade operators are braced for “potentially another lost summer” after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that it is “unlikely” that any part of Scotland will move down a level from June 28. Responding to the First Minister’s suggestion that current restrictions will remain in place for a further three weeks, and national clinical director Jason Leitch’s widely-reported comments that Scotland’s lockdown exit plans could be pushed back by up to 10 weeks due to the more infectious Indian strain of coronavirus, the SLTA said: “Another summer season, essential for business survival, will be lost.”
The trade association’s managing director Colin Wilkinson pulled no punches, stating: “The hospitality sector is at breaking point with today’s announcement that the brakes are on for further easing of restrictions.”
Calling for further financial aid to ensure the survival of the licensed hospitality industry as it plays its part in rebuilding the economy, Mr Wilkinson said: “There needs to be an extension to the current support schemes available such as furlough, VAT reduction, deferral of loan repayments and so on.
“Our pubs and bars have already invested millions to provide a safe environment as we all learn to live with this virus and we need to be able to open without restrictions as soon as we can.
“Currently, we can only operate at around 30% of our capacity, but with increased staff costs to provide table service and fewer tables because of social distancing rules, most business continue to operate at a loss, racking up further debt every time they open the doors.
“For those still unable to open because of their size or the entertainment they provide, such as late opening premises and nightclubs, it is another devastating blow for an abandoned sector crippled by restrictions and with no route map out of the pandemic.”
Today’s announcement, he said, created further uncertainty for the industry and the people it employs. “We understand the need for caution but the Scottish Government must also understand that this delay will cost an already beleaguered industry millions of pounds and puts in jeopardy the future survival of many of the pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and late-night bars that form part of Scotland’s social fibre,” added Mr Wilkinson.
“Our big fear is that the Glasgow Euro fan zone could lead to further Covid outbreaks followed by a fresh lockdown, forcing licensed premises to close again when they have only just managed to start reopening.”