Restaurant, pub and bar operators across the country have welcomed news of a £330 billion package of financial support for the economy, but still fear hundreds of job losses and business closures could still be on the horizon due to coronavirus restrictions.
In the last two days, a number of independent businesses have closed across the north, with others hanging on to “protect” staff.
The prime minister made the announcement on Monday night as part of increasing restrictions to limit the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s health.
But it wasn’t until Tuesday night that Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £330 billion government-backed loan fund to help businesses overcome the unprecedented economic impact.
Ian Watson, owner of the Cullen Bay Hotel, said: “As a company we fully support the measures the government may have to make in order to safeguard people’s health.
“Having said that, I feel it was very irresponsible of Boris Johnson to issue a statement to avoid theatres, pubs and restaurants without first putting in place a package of assistance that helps businesses and protects all staff.”
Yesterday the New Havly Cafe in Lerwick closed its doors with a “heavy heart”, as did the other coffee shops and hairdressers on the island, which has had 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
We have taken out half our seating to ensure all tables 2m apart. We sanitise ever table/cutlery/glass/salt etc between use. All staff thoroughly briefed on hand washing. We are open and we have hot nutritious soup free for those that will benefit:) #weareallinthistogether 🙏 pic.twitter.com/M2fbEy1CtM
— Nick Nairn (@NickNairn) March 17, 2020
Highland Barbers in Inverness stood firm in remaining open until “told otherwise by the government” – a view echoed by many other independent businesses in the north.
Scott Murray, the managing director of Cru Holdings – which is the operator of several of the busiest bars and restaurants in Inverness – said: “With airline travel cancelled we can expect a drop in tourism which will hit the hospitality industry hard.
“We need to do our bit to keep the Highland economy moving.”
Mindful of the increased pressure likely to be faced by the NHS, Cru Holdings has announced special deals for NHS workers.
In Aberdeen, Adrian Gomes of the Tippling House said a “strong community” of more than 2,000 bartenders on Facebook were discussing how the trade can move forward.
He said: “Times are quite tough, but we will remain open for business as long as possible.
“We had a steady January and February but all our events have been cancelled until May.
“That’s revenue we relied on and what revenue we have now is going to keeping our staff in jobs for as long as possible.”
A £320 million support package has been announced to limit the impact of #coronavirus on businesses in Scotland, including grants of at least £3,000 for small businesses➡️ https://t.co/I77QJmEqs0 pic.twitter.com/R0H8Ddz6cQ
— ScotGovEconomy (@scotgoveconomy) March 16, 2020
Earlier this week, Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced a £320 million rescue package for businesses and a £50 million hardship fund for people who lose their jobs as a result of a downturn caused by the virus.
Last night, Derek Ritchie, of the Inverurie Bid group in Aberdeenshire, said: “This is an improvement on the situation we had yesterday.
“There very well may be a lot of casualties along the way, particularly with smaller businesses, but this support from the government is at least something that will offer some hope.”
Stephen Jackson of Prestige Entertainment, added that many of his events in the north-east had been cancelled.
He said:”These cancellations have a wide knock-on effect.
“If a gig is cancelled then the venue and staff could lose wages, but it will also affect the taxi and coach drivers taking people to and from, or even the takeaways who would be relying on the trade from it afterwards.”