10pm curfew ‘last straw’ for many pubs, says tourism body

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A leading Scottish tourism organisation has warned a 10pm curfew for bars, pubs and restaurants could prove the ‘last straw’ for struggling businesses.

Hospitality venues across Scotland were ordered to abide to the new rule from Friday September 25 after it was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in an effort to combat rising cases of coronavirus across the country.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said businesses had put in place many measures to protect staff and customers as far as they could.

He said: ‘Sadly, this is likely to be the last straw for many businesses which were only just managing to break even. The impact this new rule will have on restaurants in particular in terms of restricting a second seating in the evening will result in a substantial loss of revenue, as indeed it will in other areas of hospitality.’

Mr Crothall called for a package of measures for Scotland’s tourism industry to help the sector’s ‘immediate survival and future sustainability’.

He said a ‘tailored furlough package’ would now be required alongside a permanent reduction in VAT to five per cent beyond 2021.

Furthermore, there should be a holiday for business rates until the end of March 2022 for all tourism businesses, he added.

Mr Crothall also said there should be a recapitalisation of borrowing – a mechanism for creating business liquidity for businesses which are running out of cash.

However, Mr Crothall agreed the industry must continue ‘to do the right thing’ and comply with every measure for the good of everyone.

He also welcomed the announcement of additional inspection measures, backed with enforcement, for those who did non-comply.

But he added: ‘The evidence we have seen to date shows incidences of the virus in hospitality businesses accounts for only a very small percentage of overall cases and I would therefore be hopeful the further evidence we will gather in the coming days and weeks will feed into the review of this particular measure.’

The STA plans to continue to work closely with the Scottish Government and policy makers over the coming weeks, he said.