Scottish operators said they were grateful to be able to serve alcohol indoors to pubgoers once more despite restrictions hampering trade.
Customers in most of mainland Scotland were able to drink a pint inside a pub from Monday 17 May under level two of the government’s lockdown easing framework.
However, a last minute announcement saw Glasgow held back in level three alongside Moray after rising coronavirus cases.
Hospitality venues in level two cannot serve alcohol indoors and must close at 8pm for indoor service, meaning reopening is unviable for many pubs.
For pub company Signature Group, the announcement of a continued shutdown for indoor drinking in the city was “terribly distressing.”
Signature’s business development director, Louise MacLean, said two sites “primed for opening” this week were now only eligible for £750 each per week closed.
She described the continued closure as amounting to “thousands and thousands of pounds wasted,” after investment in staff, signage and menus.
Primed to reopen
“That was a terribly distressing 4.45pm on a Friday announcement. You name it, it was all ready to go.”
Unlike their English and Welsh counterparts, pubs in Scotland in level two areas must close at 10.30pm, a curfew MacLean said she was “resigned to.”
The hard close means sites cannot get a second sitting or take in late-night diners but MacLean was grateful the curfew was not as harsh as previous cut-offs.
“We're really grateful for the chance to show the Scottish government that we are responsible operators and can trade till half ten without a sea of drunks,” she added.
Safe and responsible
“I think the nervousness has always been drunk people being in the streets and not going home,” she added. “Allowing us now after all this time the chance to demonstrate what safe and responsible hospitality is has been welcomed by the trade.”
What’s more, pub behemoth Greene King said it had been “particularly tough” for its Glaswegian teams and called the 10.30pm curfew “disappointing.”
A spokesperson for the pub company welcomed the lifting of restrictions for most of the country and alcohol being allowed indoors once more.
“However, it was a shock to see Glasgow held back in level three at short notice and it was particularly tough for our teams who had put all their preparations in place for reopening, only to be told a couple of days beforehand that it was no longer allowed,” they added.
Lack of evidence
Poor weather had made it “particularly trying” for some sites last month, when pubs were allowed to reopen and serve alcohol outdoors.
The spokesperson added: “We’re also disappointed that a 10.30pm curfew remains in place on indoor hospitality for Scottish customers in level two areas, especially as this has now been scrapped in England, as we’re not aware of any evidence showing it improves safety.
“Ultimately, we need restrictions to be lifted further before our pubs can trade profitably and we can return once more to the full pub experience that people have missed so much.”