Lockdown phase three: Hundreds of Scotland's pubs and hotels won’t be reopening

Hundreds of pubs and hotels across Scotland are unlikely to re-open on Wednesday when the hospitality and tourism sectors return after months of lockdown.
Scots will be allowed to venture back inside pubs in Edinburgh's Grassmarket from WednesdayScots will be allowed to venture back inside pubs in Edinburgh's Grassmarket from Wednesday
Scots will be allowed to venture back inside pubs in Edinburgh's Grassmarket from Wednesday

A lack of visitor numbers so far and concerns over continued physical distancing, even reduced to 1 metre are among the reasons - along with the decision by some to shut down permanently.

An appeal has now been been issued by industry bosses to get behind local pubs, restaurants and cafes as they seek to bounce back.

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Nicola Sturgeon has said it will mark Scotland’s most “significant milestone” in the exit from lockdown. Hairdressers will also reopen this Wednesday, along with churches and other places of worship for sermons.

But hospitality industry chiefs have told Scotland on Sunday that the prospect of a “mass opening” across the sector is unlikely.

Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licenced Trade Association (SLTA) said the green light to return this week for pubs was a relief.

But he said: “We’re hearing more and more, for a couple of reasons people just aren’t going to open next Wednesday.”

For some pubs it is because they don’t believe they are “viable” at the reduced 1 metre social distancing guideline.

He added: “Some, especially in tourist areas, have decided that there’s not enough customers for them to open right away, they want to keep their staff in furlough - it’s safer to protect their jobs at this point. Thirdly, there’s some that simply won’t open again.”

He added: “This mass opening, it’s simply not going to happen because of the problems we’ve encountered within the trade while we’ve been closed.”

Beer gardens reopened recently, but customers will only be allowed back inside pubs from Wednesday.

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Polling indicates Scots are wary about returning to pubs and restaurants, leaving the industry with a long road ahead to get customers back through the door.

Pubs have adopted major changes in premises to ensure social distancing can be observed and hand sanitising, along with provisions to collect all customers names and addresses for tracing purposes in the event of an infection emerging.

But it has meant that many bars and restaurants have lost up to 50% of their capacity with he knock-on effect on turnover.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA), fears that hundreds of pubs across the country have failed to weather the impact of lockdown and are unlikely to reopen their doors on Wednesday.

Chief Executive Emma McClarkin said: “The pandemic was obviously catastrophic for the hospitality industry with an estimated £670 million lost in revenue for Scotland’s pubs and bars since March.

“Support from both Scottish and UK Government’s has been instrumental in keeping businesses afloat until now, but we estimate that up to 460 pubs could have been lost during this time and will not be reopening their doors on Wednesday.”

But she insisted this week will be an “exciting time” for the thousands of bars which do return this week.

“After almost four months of forced closure, operators are desperate to welcome customers through their doors,” she added.

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“Running a pub or bar is a people business, and I think that social interaction is what has been missed most since March. So, customers can expect a warm, but physically distanced, welcome when they return to their favourite pub or bar.”

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said that being able to take bookings gain and get cash coming in has been a “much needed” boost for businesses.

But these are currently sitting at about 30-40% for many hotels, when they could expect to be around the 80-90% mark at this time of year.

“It’s not that big, mad rush into hotel accommodation from the 15th - there’s a long way to go, “ he added.

“I think there’s nervousness around moving and going somewhere else and not knowing and I think people are conscious around their own financial circumstances.”

Marketing has also been very targeted in Scotland at the moment, meaning visitor numbers from the rest of the UK and around the world remain limited.

“We won’t see everybody opening up on the 15th, not be a long a shot. There will be many businesses that will stay closed and that’s across all sectors, the attractions sector as well, not every visitor attraction will open on the 15th.”

And he issued a plea for the public to get behind local pubs, restaurants and hotels to drive the country’s economic recovery.

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“We need Scots people to be out there supporting local businesses in their local communities. For tourism to recover and the great restaurants and all the pubs and hotels people have always loved visiting in the past, for them to be there in the future, they need the support of local people spending in their local areas.”

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