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‘Tough times ahead’ for Scottish licensed hospitality sector

Published:  17 March, 2021

Trade bodies have expressed bitter disappointment after yesterday’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.

Outlining key dates in Scotland’s route map out of lockdown, Sturgeon confirmed that pubs and restaurants can reopen from 26 April. They will be allowed to serve customers outdoors – in groups of up to six from three households – until 10pm. 

Alcohol can also be served outdoors and there will be no requirement for customers to buy food. Operators will also be able to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks indoors until 8pm. 

Full indoor hospitality is set to reopen on 17 May but with a curfew of 10.30pm and maximum dwell time of two hours.

Although the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) welcomed the indicative dates for reopening, it said the partial lifting of restrictions didn’t go far enough and, for the majority, reopening would remain unviable. 

“We’re bitterly disappointed, said Colin Wilkinson, SLTA MD, as he warned of “tough times ahead” for licensed hospitality.

“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.”

Also expressing disappointment, UK Hospitality Scotland added that there was “a lot to unpack from the First Minister’s announcement.

“We had put forward a reopening proposition to the Scottish government which would have given us more flexibility, but at least we do now have a plan,” said executive director Willie Macleod.  

“There is, however, going to be significant disappointment from businesses that hospitality will be so tightly restricted in the first weeks of the reopening. We had proposed that alcohol be served indoors with a meal, so for that not to be allowed is a major disappointment.”

Last month, the Scottish government announced that hospitality, leisure and retail businesses in Scotland would pay no rates during 2021-2022 as part of a new relief package proposed.