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Another crushing blow for hospitality businesses as opening restrictions are extended

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Under-pressure hospitality businesses have been hit with another broadside with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that current opening restrictions are to continue until at least November 2.

Bars and restaurants have been operating in extremely difficult circumstances for almost two weeks after the latest curbs on trading were revealed.

Currently, venues can only serve alcohol outdoors until 10pm, while restaurants cannot serve any alcohol indoors and can only serve food inside their premises until 6pm.

These restrictions, which came into force on October 9, have seen many businesses close for good, while others have taken the decision to close temporarily, mainly due to the lack of any outdoor space.

And this follows hard on the heels of the three-month lockdown from which many bars and restaurants simply did not survive.

Revealing that terms of the new tiered system of restrictions, which will come into effect on November 2, will be made public on Friday, the first minister said: “We now have a short-term decision to make over the temporary restrictions and I can confirm that following a meeting of the cabinet this morning, we have decided to extend these for a week.

“I must stress this is a public health decision – the clinical advice we are getting is that it is not safe to lift them as early as Monday and they will continue until Monday November 2nd to allow a smoother transition into the ne tiered system.

“The rule of not being able to visit people in other households remains in place also.”

In Aberdeen Stuart McPhee, director of Siberia Bar Hotel and spokesperson for Aberdeen Hospitality Together, a group established to help the local hospitality sector throughout the pandemic, took to Twitter following the announcement.

Stuart took the decision to temporarily close the premises on Saturday October 10 as a result of the latest restrictions.

He criticised the first minister in his Tweet: “Holding talks with cabinet about hospitality industry – but not talking to the actual industry?”

Aberdeen businessman Adrian Gomes who owns cocktail bar The Tippling House is also disappointed with the restrictions constantly changing and being extended.

He said: “The current announcement shows a rise in cases/deaths, further proving that the restrictions placed on hospitality does nothing but cost jobs, closes businesses and create more mental health issues.

“Education and workplaces account for the majority of cases, and with schools on October break and likely their parents on leave, what has in fact happened is that households are mixing more in these two weeks than before, essentially increasing the rate of transmission.

“The question these days should really be are we trying to save lives, or are we trying to save votes? I’m in no doubt that the Scot Gov policy is dangerously trending towards the latter.”

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has also expressed “extreme disappointment” at the decision by the Scottish Government to extend current restrictions on hospitality across Scotland ahead of the “tier” approach to local lockdowns that is expected to be introduced on November 2.

Paul Waterson, media spokesman for the SLTA, said: “We expected this so we are not surprised. However, yet again there has been no consultation with the industry and as we said earlier this month, we believe these measures to be cataclysmic for hospitality operators.

“Hundreds of businesses are facing permanent closure and with that thousands of jobs will be lost – the damage could be irreparable.”

Paul Waterson, media spokesperson for Scottish Licensed Trade Association

A recent survey highlighted that nearly 40% of hospitality businesses were considering closure or business exit. In September, an SLTA survey of 600 on-trade premises highlighted that within the pub and bar sector, 12,500 jobs could go.

Mr Waterson added: “We estimate that two-thirds of hospitality businesses could be mothballed or go under in the coming months. Over 50% of jobs in the pub and bar sector could also be lost which will have a particularly deep impact on the employment of young people as over 40% of staff employed are under the age of 25.”

Reiterating that responsible operators continue to run safe, carefully monitored establishments, he said: “Our industry is in serious trouble and it is only going to get worse. The £40 million financial support package is nowhere near enough to save jobs and prevent operators from going under. And once again we do not have details of other financial help promised by the Scottish Government.

“Yet again it is the licensed trade that is suffering and the current measures affect not just our industry but the wider economy. We are extremely disappointed.”

Commenting on the extension of the restrictions on hospitality premises for another week, Emma McClarkin CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said:  “This news is absolutely devastating for the sector. We were told that these measures were to be ‘short’ and ‘sharp’ but now the Scottish Government have gone back on that, leaving operators feeling betrayed.

“The extension of the economic support is welcome, but still in no way makes up for the lost income of another week fully closed. The trade now feels even more let down by the Government and unfairly targeted by the measures which are costing jobs and livelihoods.

“Scotland’s pubs and bars have repeatedly been subject to some of the most penalising restrictions in the world, but without the evidence to back it up. The situation cannot continue.”

And it isn’t just businesses who are struggling to come to terms with continuous changes.

The public is now also criticising the Scottish Government, too, including Mark Mitchell from Balmedie who Tweeted: “So Nicola Sturgeon the 16 day reset that your government communicated to the Scottish population was a lie?”

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