Coronavirus in Scotland: Businesses in Glasgow face 'financial chasm' as restrictions stay

Pubs and restaurants in Glasgow are stuck in an “excruciating situation” and urgently need more financial support, industry bosses have pleaded, following the decision to keep the city in Level 3 restrictions for at least another week.

From next week, Glasgow will be the only place in the UK where establishments are banned from serving alcohol indoors.

And the First Minister warned that while it will be reviewed on a weekly basis, it may be two weeks before measures are lifted in Scotland’s biggest city.

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Moray, which had remained with Glasgow in Level 3 of coronavirus restrictions, will now join the rest of the mainland in Level 2 from Saturday.

A member of staff serves drinks in the beer garden at the Bier Halle in Glasgow during the lockdown easing last summer.

Seven-day case rates per 100,000 people in Glasgow have risen to 123, more than three times the rate of Scotland as a whole. Test positivity is at 4.2 per cent, more than double the national rate.

While case rates are also high in East Renfrewshire, at 116 per 100,000 people, Ms Sturgeon said the situation there is “very different”, and that cases can be traced to “specific household clusters”, while in Glasgow transmission is more widespread.

The First Minister also yesterday announced travel restrictions between Scotland and three local authority areas in England where there are high case numbers of the “Indian variant” - Bedford, Bolton and Blackburn and Darwin. Some 136 of these cases have now been identified in Scotland, and National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said it will “almost certainly” become the dominant strain.

The Scottish Government has given Glasgow City Council a further £1.05 million, to provide up to £750 a week for affected businesses.

But there was mounting anger in the city at the continuing restrictions, with Michael Bergson, managing director of Buck's Bar Group labelling it “grotesque”.He called for decisions to be made based on hospital admissions, and for any restrictions to be nationwide.The localised restrictions are “counterproductive”, he said, as they will result in people breaking the rules and travelling from Glasgow to other areas where more pubs are open, potentially carrying the virus with them.

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Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association added: “We are watching the demise of many in the Glasgow licensed trade and hospitality.

“These “bumps in the road” as the Glasgow lockdown was referred to today, are a financial chasm for many.”

He added: “We’re seeing the demise of the Scottish licensed trade within the Glasgow area, it’s falling apart.

“A lot of iconic pubs, community pubs which are the heart and soul of the places that they serve, will never open again.”

Andrew McRae Scotland policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the situation was “excruciating” for hospitality and tourism businesses.

“From next week, Scotland’s largest city will be the only place in the UK where pubs and restaurants won’t be able to serve alcohol indoors. Understandably, business owners and their customers are intensely frustrated,” he said.

“While we want to see new financial support for Glaswegian operators, especially those that took on new staff for re-opening, we must also see the Scottish Government investigate whether a new approach is required for the city.

“If the virus has not been brought under control while Glasgow businesses have faced almost 9 months of restrictions, then surely the problem lies elsewhere.”

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) called for pubs to be compensated for beer which will be out of date before indoor premises can use it.

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick, meanwhile, said businesses have already been hit with “hefty financial losses in staff and perishable food costs” after Level three restrictions were extended last week, when a move to Level two had been anticipated.

Other pubs and restaurants in Glasgow took to social media to apologise to customers for cancelled bookings, and hope that next week may see them allowed to open again.

“And yet another week”, despaired Molly Malones on Hope Street.

“Obviously this isn’t the update we were hoping for,” said Lauders Bar on Sauchiehall Street.

“But we hope that it won’t be too much longer now until we can open again.”

“Hopefully one one more week in level three,” said Drury Street’s Horse Shoe Bar.

Many thanked customers for their support, and implored them to re-book in future.

Ms Sturgeon said it is “not unreasonable” to say the restrictions in Glasgow will continue for longer than a week.

However, the situation will be kept under review, along with “close monitoring” of all other areas for a rise in cases.

“I think it actually makes more sense to review on a weekly basis, because we don’t want to keep Glasgow in the higher level restrictions any longer than is necessary,” she said.

Scotland recorded 414 new Covid cases and no deaths on Friday.

There were 81 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, down two from the previous day, and of these four people were in intensive care, down one from the day before.

Ms Sturgeon said she was “confident” the measures put in place in Glasgow will bring the outbreak of the virus there under control, but said they needed a “bit longer to do that”.

“I know how unwelcome Glasgow remaining in Level 3 is for individuals and businesses, but I genuinely hope it will not be for too much longer, and all of us who do live in Glasgow can play our part in getting this under control as soon as possible,” she said.

She said cases across Scotland remained “at relatively low levels” with the number of people in hospital and intensive care lower than it has been for much of the year.

But the First Minister stressed: “There are no grounds at all right now for complacency.

“We are seeing an increase in Covid rates right now, not just in Glasgow, although the biggest concentration is in Glasgow, but we are seeing an increase in several parts of the country.”

She said it was hoped these rules would not be in place for very long, but added they were “a further way of helping us reduce the risk that any more of this new variant comes into Scotland while we are trying to deal with outbreaks of it we have right now”.

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