16-day crackdown will have devastating impact, say business groups

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Business groups have issued dire warnings about the impact of new 16-day restrictions on Scotland’s hospitality sector which came into force on Friday October 9.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the clampdown on selling alcohol indoors  would ‘spell the death knell’ for many, while the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) called them ‘nothing short of devastating’.

From Friday Ocotber 9 until Sunday October 25 inclusive, equivalent to a fortnight and three weekends, tougher measures are being brought in nationally and further restrictions are to be imposed across five health boards.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned coronavirus cases are on the rise – with the largest weekly death total in Scotland since June.

More than one in five people contacted by Test and Protect had visited a hospitality setting which posed a ‘particular risk’ of transmitting the virus, she said.

She apologised for the ‘significant’ impact the new restrictions would have and pledged a new £40 million fund to support businesses affected.

However, Marc Crothall, chief executive of the STA, said the sector had invested significantly in adapting premises to create a safe experience for customers.

They had adhered to government guidance and many had gone above and beyond what was required, he said.

‘We are acutely aware of the delicate balance between protecting public health and the economy. The reality is, however, that many businesses will not be able to trade at a level over the next few weeks which would sustain them through the next couple of months and may not be economically viable beyond this year.’

He said businesses had already reported taking cancellations.

Dr Liz Cameron, of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘Restaurants and hotels, while remaining open, will also be constrained on what they can provide and this will place a large dent in their already reduced income.

‘Closures and restrictions will severely damp down any signs of life in our town centres, particularly in the central belt health board areas, which have already been devastated by offices still remaining closed, cancellation of Christmas markets and other major events.

‘While the stay local message may align with public health messaging, it will impact nationwide support for hospitality businesses during the October holiday period.

‘The knock-on impact will mean tough decisions, including the risk of potentially more redundancies.’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to operate indoors on a ‘very restricted’ basis.

It means that between 6am-6pm, they can provide food and non-alcoholic drinks only.

Hotel restaurants will be able to operate beyond 6pm, but only for residents and without serving alcohol indoors.

The current regulations and limits on meeting a maximum of six people from two households in indoor public places still applies.

Bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can continue to serve alcohol outdoors up to 10pm, subject to the 6/2 rule.

Exceptions will be made for weddings already booked and funerals, said the First Minister.

Due to high levels of infection, stricter restrictions are in place across five health board areas – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley.

In these areas, all licensed premises – with the exception of hotels for residents – will be required to close indoors and outdoors.

Takeaways will be permitted and hotels will remain open for residents.

Mrs Sturgeon added: ‘I know the vast majority of pubs, bars and restaurants have worked exceptionally hard over the last few months to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. I am grateful to them for that.

‘I know the measures we are proposing today, although they are temporary, will have a significant impact on many businesses and I am sorry for that. But since the government is placing an obligation on businesses, we also have an obligation to help them financially.’

The total number of registered deaths linked to Covid in Scotland is at 4,276 with 20 deaths registered in the last week – the highest since late June, she said.