The rule of six will have a “devastating” impact on the hospitality sector, an industry body has warned.
The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) said that the sector is on “life support” and warned that up to 90,000 jobs could be lost if a crash like the 2008 financial crisis happens.
Under the new restrictions, which came into force legally on Monday, only six people from two households can meet, with people advised to follow the guidelines from September 10 onwards.
Previously up to eight people from three households could meet indoors, while outside as many as 15 people from five households had been allowed to gather.
Hotelier Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for SHG, said the sector understands the public health reasons for the rule of six but they are a blow for the industry.
He said: “The rule of six is devastating for us. Personally I’m 24.6% down this weekend on the previous weekend before it came in and across the group it’s 25-30% comparing this weekend to the previous one.
“We are already running at 55-60% capacity compared to pre-Covid so if you add that together it’s having a major effect on us.
“The two household thing is the big one. We are used to the three households over eight people but now with the flick of a switch it’s six people over two households and the age limit of 12 and under has not really helped.”
Children under the age of 12 do not count towards the limit of six people.
Mr Montgomery added: “We as a sector totally get that health has to come before profit, we understand that and we are doing every single thing we are being asked to do but we need to make sure government listens to us.”
SHG represents restaurant and bar businesses which collectively employ almost 6,000 staff and its members include Di Maggio’s, G1 Group and Signature Pubs.
Mr Montgomery is calling on the UK Government to consider continuing the furlough scheme with a sector specific furlough for hospitality, and to continue the reduced rate of 5% VAT for hospitality which is due to continue until January.
He is also calling for support with business rates from the Scottish Government and urged it to continue to listen to the views of the sector.
He said: “There are going to be a lot casualties in the sector. Many small operators have only got one or two places and their life savings are put into this and they stand at the brink of disaster at the moment.
“We are living on a life support machine, one more thing could just flick that switch and that’s it and to keep that life support going you need to keep feeding it.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was forced to bring in the new restrictions to guard against the further spread of the disease.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We fully appreciate how difficult it has been for the hospitality sector, and there have been so many examples of how they have adapted to offer services to people at the different stages of lockdown.
“The new restrictions are based on the fundamental need to reduce household transmissions, which we know is key to keeping infection rates as low as possible.
“Throughout this unprecedented economic crisis we have listened to businesses and business organisations and acted quickly to offer support.
“Job creation is at the heart of our new Programme for Government and the Scottish Government is doing everything in its power to support the hospitality industry, however without significant borrowing powers at our disposal this action will always be limited.
“While we welcome measures taken by the UK Government, such as accepting our call to cut VAT rates for the tourism industry, UK ministers should follow the lead of other European countries by extending the Job Retention Scheme, particularly for sectors such as travel, tourism and hospitality – and if they are not prepared to do so then Scotland should acquire the powers needed to take action ourselves.”
A UK Treasury spokesman said: “The furlough scheme has done what it was designed to do – save jobs and help people back into employment.
“And many of our unprecedented interventions – including the Job Retention Bonus, business rates holidays, VAT cuts and the Kickstart Scheme – will ensure this support continues into next year.
“We’ve not hesitated to act in creative and effective ways to support jobs and we will continue to do so as we recover from this crisis.”