Uproar over curfew
Pubs: ‘we are part of solution to Covid, not the problem’
Pubs say they provide a controlled environment
Pub and restaurant operators have dubbed the latest curfew arrangements as “farcical” and said the sector is being punished despite creating a safe and regulated environment.
The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), representing many of the country’s popular chains, says its members have served nearly two million customers since venues reopened – with only 17 confirmed cases recorded among customers and staff.
Its members says thousands of pounds have been spent on hygiene measures and are calling on politicians to recognise the “crucial role” which the industry can play in helping combat the spread of Covid-19.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the SHG, whose members employ more than 6,000 people, warned that tighter curfews and shutdowns would dramatically increase the spread of the outbreak as people would simply continue to socialise at home.
He said: “Bars and restaurants are a crucial part of the solution to combat Covid, not the problem. If they are closed down, even for a short time, all the evidence shows that people will simply socialise at home, without any of the safeguards we’ve spent months implementing.
“Our sector is the most regulated in the country and is the only safe place left where people can socialise.”
He said that only 17 confirmed cases of Covid from 1.8 million customers “shows how rigorously we have been implementing the rules and how counter-productive it would be to impose further restrictions.”
He added: “The current curfew is not the answer, as we have all seen. It leads to overcrowding in the streets, on public transport and to more house parties, which are major sources of infection.
“Police Scotland broke up 300 house parties last weekend alone and that will only be the tip of the iceberg.”
Burger King, JD Wetherspoon, Greene King and Carlsberg said jobs will be lost without support for the industry.
Thousands of pubs across the UK have not reopened despite easing of the restrictions. The total number of licensed pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels that are trading is down from 115,108 to 86,212 – a fall of 28,896, according to research from market analysts CGA and AlixPartners.
Greene King, which runs 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels, and owns the Belhaven business, has seen a sharp fall in takings as a result of the curfew.
Belhaven owner Greene King has seen a sharp fall in takings
A spokesman said: “We are already seeing lots of examples of people leaving our pubs to buy alcohol in shops to drink elsewhere in unregulated environments.”
Restaurant owners and brewers across the UK have urged Boris Johnson to ditch the 10pm curfew .
A letter to the Prime Minister, coordinated by hospitality organisations, warned: “Across the country, the 10pm curfew has removed key trading hours for all of us vital to our survival, removing whole shifts from food-led businesses.”
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, added his frustration at current policy.
“The supposedly joined-up thinking of the UK governments on restricting hours is farcical following the announcement that a closing time of 11pm will be imposed in Northern Ireland from Wednesday which follows the announcement last week that pubs and bars in Wales would close at 10.30pm,” he said.
“The Scottish trade is losing more trading hours per day than any other country in the UK – with the staggered closing times we have in Scotland this is anything from between two and five hours per day. Other parts of the UK do not have the same flexibility in opening hours.”
He said if this was about controlling the movement of people there should be curfew on entry to pubs and bars, rather than when customers depart. This, he said, would “allow for a gradual, more controlled dispersal of customers.”
A new study by Public Health England showed that pubs and restaurants were responsible for fewer than 3% of infections in the run-up to the curfew being imposed south of the border last weekend, compared with schools and care homes, which accounted for over two-thirds of all positive tests.
SHG comprises many of the country’s largest and best-known restaurant and bar businesses, including The DRG Group, Buzzworks Holdings, Signature Pubs, Montpeliers, Manorview Group, Lisini Pub Co, Caledonia Inns, G1 Group, Siberia Bar & Hotel, Mor-Rioghain Group, and Caledonian Heritable.
The group has written to senior politicians including the First Minister, Cabinet Secretaries and Holyrood Committee Convenors calling on them to see for themselves the comprehensive steps that hard-working staff are taking to protect customers.
Colin Wilkinson, for the SLTA, added:: “Having invested heavily in training and social-distancing measures across the entire sector to reopen and rebuild consumer confidence, the Scottish Government has disproportionately targeted our industry yet again with devastating consequences for businesses and the jobs that they provide.
“If these restrictions are about curtailing movement, then why not introduce a proper curfew where entry to our pubs and bars ceases at a given time allowing for a gradual, more controlled dispersal of customers later in the evening.”