Coronavirus in Scotland: Highland hospitality industry sees dip amid new Covid-19 restrictions

Hospitality businesses in the Highlands of Scotland have expressed concern over comments by the First Minister encouraging people not to travel unless it is essential.

Pies being made at the Lochinver Larder

Christie Grey, owner of two fish and chip takeaways north of Inverness, the Trawler and the Friary, said: “Some things have been detrimental while others have presented opportunities, the Highlands have fared well in comparison to the cities.

“The ‘staycation’ has definitely been the thing to do this year, we’ve seen loads of people from the central belt and down south.”

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Mr Grey continued: "We’re entering into an uncertain period now. I’m aware of some businesses deciding to close early for the season while some of the older generation are

View from the Lochinver Larder, Lairg

choosing to retire early.

"We do have the option to close both shops for the winter however that would mean making the remaining staff redundant, while this would make economic sense we would like to

have some sort of trading, staffed businesses to operate when things pick up.”

Mr Grey said he and his partner already postponed a refit they had planned from March 2020 until February 2021, he said: “This was going to cost us £80,000 but we’re not sure if

we have the confidence to go ahead in the current climate but we need to show commitment to our business and staff in some way.”

Kieran Mcgale, Manager of the Courtroom in Dornoch, said: “We haven’t been excessively quiet, we’ve had a lot of tourists from around the UK but of course the American market has been null and void as it were, but as far as tourism trade goes it’s been quite positive."

The Courthouse previously acted as a cafe but closed in January for a refurbishment rebranding as a bar and brasserie, they were due to reopen in March but had to postpone because of the pandemic.

Mr Mcgale continued: “After the announcement yesterday, i’m expecting it to be quite quiet. I’m not expecting a lot of trade from outside the town.

"The 6pm closing time and no alcohol sales has put the biggest dampener on things, we’ve seen a massive drop in trade in the last week since that was announced.

“I’ve had to make some pretty drastic cuts to staff hours and things like that."

Duncan Cameron, the operations director for Rose Hospitality, spoke on behalf of the Lochinver Larder and said: "A couple of weeks ago we had our best day ever of trading since the business opened, so it’s been very positive.

"We’ve got quite a lot of land outside by the river that we’ve never utilised so we bought an ex-military truck that had been converted into a pub on wheels and had it delivered to the lochside, all our trading has been from there.

"We expected revenue to dip in September because traditionally we see that at the end of the school summer holidays, but we didn’t experience that this year.

"The season hasn’t started to tail off just yet but we think it’s going to after this weekend because of Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement advising people not to travel.”

The Lochinver Larder offers an online service called ‘pies by post’, Mr Cameron added: “If the rules and regulations are telling people not to travel then hopefully we can still get our pies to them.”

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