SLTA fears for bar staff over face mask extension

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Confusing message: the SLTA and UKHospitality Scotland have expressed disappointment over the extension of face mask rules in Scotland (credit: Getty/Drazen Zigic)
Confusing message: the SLTA and UKHospitality Scotland have expressed disappointment over the extension of face mask rules in Scotland (credit: Getty/Drazen Zigic)

Related tags Legislation Licensing Social responsibility Health and safety

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) fears the government’s decision to continue forcing pub customers to wear face masks could lead to angry confrontations with bar staff.

The announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon means the legal requirement to wear face coverings on public transport and in most public places will continue until at least early April and the SLTA believes Scotland not falling into line with England, where wearing a face covering is no longer required by law, will confuse people – particularly visitors from south of the border.

“All this does is put yet more pressure on licensed hospitality businesses to police this requirement,” said Paul Waterson, SLTA media spokesperson. “It is hugely unfair staff should have to tell customers they cannot enter their premises unless they are wearing a face covering.”

Meanwhile, UKHospitality Scotland has welcomed the end of the requirement to collect customer details at pubs as planned for Monday 21 March but is also disappointed with the face mask ruling. 

Take out frustrations

SLTA’s Waterson added: “In most cases, customers understand the law in Scotland is different and will either comply by wearing a mask or walk away. However, we are aware of instances whereby customers simply don’t accept the law and they take out their frustration on staff. That is not acceptable.

“While the advice going forward – regardless of the law – will be to continue wearing a face covering in crowded places with people asked to weigh up their own personal responsibility, it is evident many people are jaded and simply not bothering. You only have to go into a supermarket to observe that fewer people are wearing masks.

“The licensed hospitality sector is at a stage now where business is picking up – this makes the messaging confusing for visitors from England who will support our hospitality businesses.”

Practical problems

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “The extension of the compulsory wearing of face coverings when entering, exiting and moving around in venues will cause disappointment for many business owners, workers and customers who were looking forward to the end of this most visible of restrictions.

“As well as the symbolic significance of face coverings, they continue to create practical problems for hospitality workers – particularly in relation to communication and providing that welcoming smile that guests missed for too long.

“With no evidence provided that masks are making a difference in combatting the spread of Covid in Scotland, businesses will hope for better news ahead of the Scottish parliament’s Easter recess.”

Waterson concluded: “Our sector still has many ongoing issues to overcome and there is an onus on the Scottish government to support our industry, which is key to the economy and jobs. We need them to promote confidence and positivity.”

The SLTA represents independent licensed trade establishments and personal licence holders, and represents all sectors of the trade, including pubs, hotels, restaurants, off-sales and late-night premises.

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