Hospitality chiefs have hit out at a new 16-day inside booze ban saying saying the sector is being “picked on” and that Aberdeen had “already served its sentence”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced all licensed premises will be prohibited from serving alcohol indoors and all hospitality venues will be subject to an indoor curfew of 6pm from Friday until October 25.
Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to continue serving alcohol outdoors up to the existing curfew time of 10pm and hotel restaurants will be allowed to operate beyond 6pm but only for residents and without alcohol.
The measures are part of a bid to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and come as Scotland recorded more than 1,000 new positive test results in a single day.
A £40 million support package was announced to help firms affected by the measures.
Ms Sturgeon also announced new regulations to extend the mandatory use of face coverings in indoor communal settings, including staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.
And shops and supermarkets will be asked from this weekend to return to two-metre physical distancing and reintroduce one-way systems.
For businesses in five health board regions within the central belt – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley – the restrictions will be tougher and could last longer, with licensed premises ordered to shut completely apart from for takeaway services.
However, the first minister said there would be no mandatory travel restrictions in place and they were “not insisting” people cancel planned half-term breaks, though travel to the five central belt health authority areas is advised against.
Colin Cameron, who owns the Kirkgate Bar, The Bridge, and Masada Bar, told of his anger at the new measures, and said the hospitality industry in the city had already suffered from the local lockdown.
He said: “Nicola Sturgeon has mentioned the five regions which are particularly badly affected, so why didn’t she just lock them down and leave us to carry on?
“I’m angry because we’ve already served our sentence and had our three-week punishment. The Scottish Government almost destroyed the trade within that period because there has been a knock-on effect.
“Not only did we lose three weeks of the second busiest month of the year, but we also found that people have been too scared to come out.
“During the last five weeks, we haven’t been as busy compared to the three weeks before the Aberdeen lockdown so there is no doubt it’s had a negative effect.
“The new restrictions are going to be even worse. It’s okay for people who have decent sized outdoor areas but those who don’t will be faced with shutting their doors for 16 days.
“There’s anger not just from staff, but customers too. Customers are getting used to the hygiene measures and staff are getting good at it, and all of a sudden we’ve been told we can’t do it anymore.”
Meanwhile, Simon Cruickshank, co-owner of The Ploughman and The Richmond Arms in Peterculter, said: “The hospitality industry is being picked on. There is no other industry being targeted like we are.
“You can go to the supermarket and it’s packed to the gills. There is no contact tracing whereas pubs and restaurants police the hygiene measures really strictly but are facing harsh measures.
“If you think of all the things in supermarkets that people are touching, and then someone else comes along and puts it in their trolley.
“They are allowed to sell alcohol until 10pm, but they are not facing restrictions.
“We have elderly customers who get the bus out to The Ploughman and have one large glass of wine each and that’s what they look forward to.
“The Scottish Government is penalising everyone from 18-year-olds to 80-year-olds.
“We extended the Eat Out to Help Out scheme for the whole of October and we’ve been so busy.
“Everybody has been enjoying getting out but here we are again having it taken away from us through no fault of our own.”
In Aberdeen Paul Clarkson, operations director of hospitality group PB Devco, which operates a portfolio of bars and restaurants, had already started preparing for the new restrictions after rumours circulated online.
He said: “It was kind of expected after the rumours that were going around. It is interesting allowing outdoors to be open until 10pm – that certainly does give us and a few other operators in the city the opportunity to stay open.
“It might be looked on as an unfair advantage, but we, like many others have invested in outside areas. But what is an outdoor area? The goalposts seem to change with regards to the regulations around this, so it would be good to have guidelines to clearly outline what that is. We need further clarification on this.
“People have invested a lot of money in these outdoor areas, but it is just a case of seeing what happens. The likes of The Chester Hotel, The Dutch Mill, Soul Bar, No.10 Bar & Restaurant, The Spiders Web in Dyce will all hopefully still be able to use their areas and serve alcohol outside until 10pm.
“The likes of Soul Bar, we would just go back to operating outside. But then the next question is ‘what time should I be open?’.
“Nicola Sturgeon put it across three weekends, too, and across the October holidays. It is disappointing for The Queen Vic and The Howff, The College and some of our other venues.
“Lunchtime trade in the city centre has been non-existent so I don’t see the point in opening Vovem Meat & Liquor for a few hours from 4-6pm. No one will have dinner at 4pm.
“We’ll have to put staff back on furlough and at least most businesses will hopefully be able to take advantage of the £40 million she’s mentioned. To put all of our staff back on furlough would cost the company a significant amount of money – a five-figure sum.
“I guess it is good, in terms of fairness for the whole of the country, that we’ve seen stricter restrictions put in place in certain areas.”
Dennis Forsyth has run Cheers Bar in Fraserburgh town centre for the last 15 years and said they will continue to operate by using their outdoor area to serve alcohol.
Dennis said: “We expected some kind of measures. I understand the situation in the Central Belt where they are shutting down pubs but we don’t have the same levels in Aberdeenshire.
“The pubs have nothing to hang onto unless they have an outdoor area, which we have.
“If we didn’t have an outdoor space it would be impossible to trade just off of snacks and soft drinks.
“It has just been one thing after another. You try and find a way to move forward but at the moment we don’t know where to go.
“We need to have some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Adele Callan, owner of 210 Bistro in Aberdeen, had just introduced a Work from 210 initiative designed to allow individuals to work from the popular eatery, offering a change of scenery instead of professionals being stuck at home all of the time.
She said: “As a restaurant, only being permitted to be open until 6pm and not being allowed to sell alcohol, we may as well be closed.
“Since reopening after the initial lockdown every single customer has followed our strict Covid-19 safety measures, even when alcohol has been consumed.
“These new restrictions make absolutely no sense, especially in an area where there is currently a low prevalence of coronavirus cases.
“The recent outbreaks in the central belt should be dealt with in the same manner they were addressed in Aberdeen in August. Allowing beer gardens as the only places permitted to sell alcohol is going to result in the same issues we had back in August with large queues and gatherings around the few establishments with outdoor space.
“Unless there is significant financial support from the government for all licensed premises these restrictions are going to result in many more redundancies and closures.”
DaVinci Italian restaurant owner Elena Ionascu called for further clarity on the new restrictions.
She said: “The rules are just not very clear. Yes, we cannot sell alcohol past 6pm, but are we able to do BYOB to avoid cancellations? Can the customer pre-order a bottle before they arrive?
“Most of our customers at least have a bottle of wine per table but I’m concerned there will be a lot of cancellations now because people cannot drink alcohol.
“I just ordered the wine for the restaurant the other day because Nicola Sturgeon said there would be no closures, which I now cannot sell.”
“If I don’t have enough sales, I can’t keep my employees.”
Chief Executive of Aberdeen Inspired, Adrian Watson said: “The restrictions announced by the First Minister will be met with real anxiety by our businesses who have worked tirelessly to provide a safe environment in Aberdeen City Centre for both customers and staff.
“Many of our evening and night-time economy businesses have already reported back that the recently imposed 10pm curfew has been hugely detrimental, so the implications of pushing back to 6pm could potentially be devastating for some. Welcome as the government support package is, we need to understand the actual detail and how much of this will find its way to Aberdeen City Centre businesses, with a strong sense already that this won’t be anywhere near enough.
“Our retailers have also gone above and beyond in complying with all that has been asked of them and on today’s announcements, some have questioned the evidence base for the two-metre rule in store. The interdependencies between retail and a strong hospitality offering are well known.
“Covid has only served to accelerate the scale of the challenge to town and city centres across the country and Aberdeen is certainly not immune.
“This is coming into a vital time of year for our businesses and we need to be working together to build more confidence as the economic health of our city centre is so important to the well-being of many in the city and wider region.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association described the latest measures as “cataclysmic” and warned of hundreds of business closures and thousands of job losses.
Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, added: “Our research already tells us that many in the industry are on the precipice of business failure and these further restriction measures announced today and the much quieter winter season approaching leads us to only one conclusion: the sector is now heading into a scenario of ‘last man standing’.
“Details of the First Minster’s announcement of a £40 million financial support package are awaited but the question is: will this be enough? In our opinion the hospitality sector in general needs substantially greater and far more reaching support than has just been announced and does not come anywhere near to saving our industry.
“Responsible operators are running safe, carefully monitored establishments so in our opinion there is no need for the Scottish Government to ‘go further’ on pubs. Actions by governments are meant to be proportionate and evidence-based and despite reference today to newly-released ‘evidence’ the industry continues to call on the Government to provide the evidence for infection rates stemming directly from the licensed trade.
“Industry figures suggest that there are very low infection rates of staff within our pubs and bars which suggests to us that the industry is doing everything that it can and is providing as safe an environment as possible – otherwise, if we were a major causal route of infection, this would surely be reflected in the infection rate of hospitality staff.
“It would appear again that Scotland’s licensed trade is the sacrificial lamb and paying the price for other sectors that do not operate under such restrictive measures as we have seen recently.”