Alcohol restrictions leave Scottish pubs in ‘no man's land’

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

New system: pubs face heavy restrictions on serving alcohol in Scotland
New system: pubs face heavy restrictions on serving alcohol in Scotland

Related tags Scotland Edinburgh Scottish Glasgow Aberdeen Health and safety Legislation lockdown Drinks Alcoholic beverage

Scottish pubs will face varying restrictions on serving alcohol when a new levelled system of coronavirus restrictions begins on Monday 2 November.

There are five levels in the system and the Scottish Government will announce tomorrow (Thursday 29 October) which areas are under which measures.

Pubs in level two areas will be allowed to sell alcohol indoors with a main meal until 8pm.

Venues outside the central belt of Scotland can currently not serve alcohol indoors and must close at 6pm.

Alcohol restrictions

For level three areas, all hospitality venues will be able to operate until 6pm but cannot sell alcohol. This level reflects the restrictions currently in place in the central belt.

Hotels and other accommodation will continue to be able to serve evening meals to residents.

The Scottish Government said it would consider how low level background sound could be safely managed, after operators said the ban left their venues with no atmosphere.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the third level was a "no mans land without support".

Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I understand that any restrictions are hard for business and I know that many will want us to go further, however this is a proportionate relaxation of the current rules that will enable premises to serve evening meals and alcohol in level two, in addition to removing the distinction between cafés and other licensed premises at level three.

“We need to be very cautious at level three, to ensure that the restrictions in place contribute to reducing the spread of the virus, so that they can be lifted as soon as possible.

“I want to thank the sector for its constructive engagement over the weekend and commit to continuing these discussions as we go forward.”

Incredibly tight

UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said the five level system “doesn’t appear to do hospitality businesses any good”. 

“Relaxing the restrictions around meal service is a sensible step,” he continued. “As is the decision to allow alcohol to be served outdoors, although the time of year means this will probably not be a huge benefit.”

He added: “The level three restrictions around food service without alcohol are incredibly tight.

“Again, we need to stress the importance of providing sufficient guidance and time to allow businesses to get to grips with new measures. Businesses need to plan, order stock, communicate details to staff and that all takes time that they are not being given.”

Financial support should reflect the reality of how costly closing is for businesses, Macleod said.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she understood “everyone is thoroughly sick of [restrictions]”. 

However, she said: "we can't magic Covid away".

What will each level mean for pubs?

Level four​ – under this level, pubs and restaurants would be closed. Schools would remain open but all non-essential shops and many other venues would close. This would be quite similar to the first lockdown in the spring.

Level three​ – pubs and restaurants would be allowed to open until 6pm to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks. However, pubs could not sell alcohol indoors or outdoors. This level is similar to the type of restrictions already faced by hospitality in most of the central belt.

Level two​ – pubs can serve alcohol indoors with a main meal until 8pm. This would be similar to the measures imposed on pubs outside the central belt. At the moment, a maximum of six people from two households can meet at hospitality venues and pubs can serve alcohol outdoors until 10pm. 

Level one​ – pubs would be able to open until 10.30pm. Six people from two households could meet indoors but this will not be allowed from 2 November as there is already a nationwide restriction on indoor socialising in homes for the time being.

Level zero​ – this level would be something close to normality. However, no council will be placed into this level when the system begins next month, the Scottish Government has said as it is not yet safe enough. It would allow a maximum of eight people from three different households to meet up indoors.

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