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As Wetherspoon goes on attack...

Call to ‘tweak tiers’ to help bars survive Christmas

Sturgeon and beer

Pub groups want Nicola Sturgeon to show some Christmas cheer

A pubs and restaurants group has demanded the Scottish government’s five-level Covid restrictions system is ‘tweaked’ to enable more businesses to get through Christmas.

The Scottish Hospitality Group, representing a number of operators across the country, has today called on the Scottish Government to ‘tweak the tiers’ or publish the scientific evidence behind what it calls “the draconian restrictions” on trading hours.

It wants the hours of opening to be extended to allow for a full dinner service that would at least cover costs.

The SHG’s demand comes as JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin called the Scottish tiers “extremely onerous” and having a “serious effect on trade”.

A restaurateur and hotelier on Tuesday spoke out against the alcohol ban, claiming the arguments for it were difficult to understand.

Following the latest update from the First Minister, operators of bars, restaurants and hotels across the country are revising their plans for staffing and stock at a time when they would usually be gearing up for the most important trading period of the year.

The SHG has warned that time is running out to save Christmas for families and businesses across Scotland, with continued deep uncertainty about what this year’s festive season could look like. Businesses are calling for more help in the short- to medium-term to prevent closures and redundancies.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the SHG, said: “Remaining in the current tiers, or even worse moving up a tier, is a sucker punch for hard-working hospitality staff who face losing their jobs.

“The government asked us for refinements to the current restrictions that would protect the public and allow us to trade viably. We provided those recommendations, but they were completely ignored.”

In response to a direct Scottish Government request for industry feedback, SHG suggested an extension in trading hours in tiers 2 and 3 to 10pm as they claim there is no scientific evidence to support forcing premises to close their doors at 6pm or 8pm.

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By extending opening times by just a few hours, it would mean businesses can operate a full dinner service and bring in enough money to cover fixed costs such as rent, furlough contributions, and staff pension payments. 

Nic Wood, director of the Signature Pub Group, added: “The more viable we can be then the less of a burden we will be on the country and we will still provide safe places for people to socialise. 

“Were it not for furlough, 75,000 people in the central belt would have lost their jobs this week. But the businesses that employ these people still need support to cover the furlough contribution and fixed costs.

“The Scottish Government must sit up and listen to what industry is saying to them or the majority of hospitality businesses, particularly the small, independent operators without deep pockets, will not be here past Christmas.

“Just tweaking the guidance slightly will save thousands of jobs and save the taxpayer millions while still giving the public a safe place to meet friends and family.”

On average for SHG members, the government grant aid is £5,100 per week less than it costs to run each venue (average costs are £5,800 per week and the average grant is £700 per week). This means the group as a whole is losing £1m every week.

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Including the costs of shutdown, such as wasted stock, add an average of £2,400 per venue, taking weekly losses across the group to £1.5m..”

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin says the current Covid regulations are a “complete muddle” and the benefits “questionable”.

The pubs company said like-for-like sales for the 15 weeks to 8 November plunged by 27.6%.

It said 756 pubs in England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are closed while 64 in Scotland and 51 in Wales are trading.

Tim Martin

Tim Martin: ‘tier system is onerous’

“The Scottish pubs, in particular, are subject to an extremely onerous tier system which, as has been widely reported, is having a serious effect on trade,” he said.

“For any pub or restaurant company trading in different parts of the UK, and for customers generally, the constantly changing national and local regulations, combined with geographical areas moving from one tier to another in the different jurisdictions, are baffling and confusing.

“The entire regulatory situation is a complete muddle. However, the initial regulations, following reopening, introduced on 4 July, were carefully thought through, followed thorough consultation, and were based on solid scientific foundations of social distancing and hygiene.

“The benefits of the regulatory hyperactivity since then, including the imposition of a curfew, are questionable.”



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