An Inverness hospitality boss has suggested knocking back closing times could be just the lifeline the sector needs.
Restrictions eased across the most of mainland Scotland yesterday, with only Moray and Glasgow remaining in Level 3.
The drop to Level 2 for the rest of the country – and Level 1 for the islands – means drinks can now be served indoors, and up to six people can socialise inside.
Entertainment venues such as cinemas, bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls have also reopened.
Restaurants, cafes and bars can stay open inside until 10.30pm, and their outside opening times must be in line with local licensing laws.
However, social distancing between households remain, meaning that venues are still operating with a smaller capacity.
Operating at about 50% capacity
Scott Murray, managing director of Cru Holdings, told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland that although the easing of restrictions was welcome, it was “nowhere near the finishing line” for the beleaguered sector.
“The Scottish Government has been quite good at promoting that we’re allowed to drink inside and restrictions are easing,” he said. “But it’s important to remember that we’re still probably only operating at about 50% of our capacity and no restaurant or pub was ever designed to make a profit, or even break even, at 50% capacity.
“Although it’s a positive move it’s certainly nowhere near the finishing line we need to be at.”
He suggested easing some of the restrictions further, such as making closing times later, would help struggling businesses and save jobs.
He added: “Most hospitality businesses make their money after 10pm, so allowing that period would help. Even if you could make money at 50% capacity at any normal time there’s too many other restrictions there to allow you to do so in this case.
“It’s all very well having the demand there, but if you can’t supply that demand then we’re still back in the same position as we were before.”