The Scottish First Minister has announced that pubs are to close across the central belt of Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, and a 6pm curfew will take effect in other area from today in a bid to suppress the second wave of Covid-19 infections.
Nicola Sturgeon announced the measures today, which will force pubs in the Greater Glasgow area, Lothian, Forth Valley, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, to shut for two weeks from Friday, although they will be able to serve alcohol as a takeaway. Hotels are excepted from the rule, providing they are selling to residents.
Sturgeon argued that the measures were “not easy”, but “essential” as there were “significantly higher levels of infection in the central belt”.
Across the rest of Scotland, outside the central belt, pubs and restaurants can open, but a 6pm curfew will be put in place, and no alcohol can be sold inside. Food can only being served indoors until 6pm and all alcohol will be able to be sold outside only, up until 10pm, the Scottish government said.
Retailers will also beed to return to the 2m rule for social distancing, and people are being discouraged from using public transport .
Coming as the country recorded more than 1,000 new cases in 24 hours for the first time, Sturgeon said “we need to do more and we need to do it now”. However she added that “no one is pointing the finger of blame” at the hospitality sector and acknowledged that the majority of hospitality businesses had worked hard to protect staff and customers.
But she argued that risk remained in indoor setting where ventilation was a problem and people moved around.
“And the presence of alcohol can of course affect people’s willingness to physically distance,” she said.
The announcement was greeted with dismay by the hospitality industry.
The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) said that thousands of jobs are now at ‘high risk’ and that the £40million of economic support offered would be unlikely to save many businesses.
The SBPA’s CEO Emma McClarkin said the harsh new restrictions would deliver “a knockout blow” for many of Scotland’s pubs and the communities they serve.
“We entirely understand and appreciate the difficult situation of the government and the need to continue to take measures to suppress the virus, but we question the fairness and wisdom of these restrictions and the level of financial support
She said that without an ability to sell any alcohol, most pubs that could open were unlikely to be viable.
“The financial support on offer is of course welcome, but it does not go nearly far enough. For the majority of premises, the available funds will not even come close to covering the required furlough contributions for the period, never mind ongoing fixed costs and stock. We need to review the financial support on offer and work with government to protect as many pubs, jobs and livelihoods as
There would also be a knockon effect on brewers, who had already seen around 50% of their on-trade business disappear this year, she added.
“The knock-on effect of these new restrictions will be felt keenly among Scotland’s brewers. As a result, there will now likely be further redundancies and jobs lost within our sector.”
Nick MacKenzie, CEO of Greene King, which has 240 pubs in Scotland and 2500 employees, called the shut-down “a devastating blow” for the thousands of people who work in the industry.
WWe understand that decisive action needs to be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We have invested millions of pounds in ensuring that our pubs are safe and only had six Test and Protect requests from NHS Scotland in total across our 125 managed pubs since we reopened on 15 July, having served millions of customers. It is time to stop unfairly targeting pubs,” he said.
“The sector has already seen pub closures and job losses and a second shut-down will see more closures and lost jobs in every Scottish community. We welcome the acknowledgement that support is needed but are concerned that £40m won’t go far enough and urgently need to understand the detail and the speed this can be deployed.”
The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) called on the Scottish Government to publish the “full evidence” for this lockdown and also guarantee that small breweries, who lost up to 82% of their business during lockdown, would be eligible for the financial assistance package.
“Pubs and small breweries are in a fragile state because of the Covid crisis and for many this sudden shut down in Scotland will be the final blow,” SIBA’s chief executive James Calder said.”A two week shut down will mean fresh cask beer will have to be destroyed in pub cellars, with pubs or small breweries footing the bill, and the beer supply chain from breweries into pubs must once again come to a dead stop.”