New restrictions deemed ‘death sentence’ for hospitality sector

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New coronavirus restrictions imposed in Scotland will “sound the death knell” for some in the hospitality sector, business leaders have warned.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes are being barred from selling alcohol indoors for more than two weeks in an effort to stall a rise in coronavirus cases.

They can open indoors between 6am and 6pm to sell food and soft drinks only but will be able to sell alcohol for outside areas until 10pm.

The changes come into force at 6pm on Friday and are expected to last until October 25.

Hospitality businesses in the central belt face stricter restrictions, with pubs and licenced cafes to shut to all but takeaway customers for the same period.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “These measures will sound the death knell for businesses across the hospitality sector, especially pubs and bars.

“Restaurants and hotels, whilst remaining open, will also be constrained on what they can provide and this will place a large dent in their already reduced income.”

She said redundancies could rise as a result of the measures, and she criticised a “lack of consultation with business” before the restrictions were announced.

Stephen Montgomery of the Scottish Hospitality Group, which represents several restaurant and bar groups, said: “The First Minister has effectively signed a death sentence for many businesses across the Scottish hospitality industry, while the real problem is socialising at home.”

He said the industry is “part of the solution to combat this virus, not part of the problem” and added that the “latest blow from the Scottish Government will create fear and anger across our industry” and have a “catastrophic” economic cost.

The Food and Drink Federation Scotland said it is “extremely disappointed” with the restrictions, while Scotland Food & Drink said the action is a “hammer blow”.

“They’ll also cause a significant knock-on impact on our tourism sector, on our hospitality supply chain, and on those that operate in our night-time economy like taxi drivers and takeaways.”

David Lonsdale, Scottish Retail Consortium director, said many businesses would be baffled at the request for shops to return to two-metre physical distancing “in the absence of any evidence which shows shops are a source of infection”.

He added: “Those operating cafes, coffee shops, and food-to-go restaurants have adopted every measure asked of them by Government, despite the enormous impact on their business models.

“These additional restrictions may make it impractical for some to trade at all for this period, and the Government must urgently provide details of the proposed support for these viable businesses.”

Announcing the restrictions in the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I know that the measures we are proposing today, although they are temporary, will have a significant impact on many businesses and I am sorry for that.”

She also announced an additional £40 million to support businesses that will be affected by the new temporary measures, and said the Scottish Government will discuss with businesses how to mitigate employers’ contributions to the UK Government’s job retention scheme.

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