First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that hospitality venues, alongside non-essential retail, gyms and hairdressers, would not reopen before 26 April.
Under the Scottish Government’s coronavirus strategic framework, the country will return to a levels system of restrictions from late April, with regional rules.
Operators have to wait until mid-March for more details, causing the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) to accuse the Government of being “hell-bent on following a precautionary approach that’s not backed up by evidence.”
The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA), alongside the SHG, urged the Government to scrap unpopular rules within the levels system.
Closure in all but name
Measures such as curfews, banning music and restrictions on the sale of alcohol mean “continued closure for pubs in all but name,” according to the SBPA’s Emma McClarkin.
First Minister Sturgeon said the strategic framework was “deliberately cautious at this stage” but if coronavirus data showed progress, the Government would “seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions.”
McClarkin said Sturgeon’s announcement yesterday (Tuesday 243 February), “raises more questions than it answers.”
She continued: “Pub businesses across Scotland now have a lengthy and uncertain wait until mid-March when details of the tier system will be announced.”
Scottish operators were frustrated at the lack of detail in the plans, given the information provided to English pubs from Westminster, according to the SHG’s Montgomery.
Debt racking up
He added: “We’ve endured repeated lockdowns and our worst festive trading ever. We pay into a furlough scheme that costs us more than it saves, we’re racking up huge amounts of debt, and we’ve already paid out a fortune to make our premises Covid-compliant only to be shut down.
“All the indicators should be giving us cause for hope and optimism, yet the Scottish Government seems hell-bent on following a precautionary approach that’s not backed up by evidence.”
Chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), James Calder said it was imperative the level system did not once again mean alcohol sales were banned in level 2 and a meal requirement in level 3.
These restrictions would make it “impossible” for breweries to trade with pubs, should the whole country move into level 3 from 26 April, Calder added.
“We need urgent clarity on what the content of the tiers are when we get more information in March,” SIBA’s Calder said.
Brewers were burning through an average of £5,000 per month and desperately needed another cash injection through the Brewers Support Fund, Calder added.
The Scottish Government said businesses would receive a level 4 payment for an additional month once businesses are moved down a level.
Scottish pubs have also received confirmation that business rates relief will be continued for the next year.