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Temporary restrictions a "blow" to Scotland's restaurants

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

New temporary restrictions across Scotland requiring fish and chip restaurants to close earlier for two weeks have been described as a ‘blow’ to the industry.

The new rules, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday, means indoor hospitality venues are banned from selling alcohol and can only open from 6am until 6pm to sell soft drinks and food. Customers can be served alcohol in outside areas, however, but only until 10pm.

Tighter restrictions will also come into force in five Scottish health board areas – Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley – with all pubs and licensed cafes ordered shut to all but takeaway customers.

The new temporary measures come into force from 6pm tomorrow and are expected to last until 25th October.

The Ashvale, which operates seven fish and chip restaurants and takeaways in the north-east of Scotland, will have to close four hours earlier than normal. While operations director Stuart Divine fully supports the required measures needed to try and put a stop to the spread of the virus, he says he feels dismayed at some of the decisions being made.

"We're getting used to these body blows now," he comments. “I feel there is a severe lack of consultation with industry because why would you choose to leave a restaurant opening hours at 6am-6pm? I understand that alcohol may be a contributing factor but a family orientated restaurant could function quite comfortably without alcohol between 8am-8pm or 7am-7pm. I just presume the virus doesn’t start its work until 6pm?

“We will take it on the chin again and hopefully regroup in a fortnight and see what happens. Luckily our takeaways are functioning well and will hopefully continue to do so.”

Others feel they were quite fortunate given the circumstances. Simone Varese, director of 13-strong Glasgow-based chain Blue Lagoon Fish & Chip Shops, has two branches within the closure zone. He comments: “Due to the fact our branches are all unlicensed premises, they should hopefully come under the “cafe” exemption which means our restaurants can all stay open until 6pm at least. Which is something.

“I would say that in my option, the closure of all licensed restaurants and pubs is very harsh and unnecessary. I believe it would have made much more sense for the government to allow licensed premises restaurants and pubs to remain open however selling food only until 6pm.

“This would have enabled those businesses to have some form of income - which is absolutely vital at the moment - while also curbing the concerns over the public ignoring the rules while drinking alcohol.”

An extra £40m of government support has been pledged to help businesses affected by the new restrictions. However, UKHospitality has warned this will not be sufficient to support the sector, with executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod saying: “The First Minister stated that hospitality was by far the most impacted of sectors and we now need urgent confirmation of the details of the support package and how it will be applied. Without detail, it looks as though the £40m announced by the First Minister will not nearly be sufficient to support the sector. Any support to underwrite furlough will have to go far beyond the Job Support Scheme, which seems unlikely to be taken up by many hospitality businesses.

“We also need a route map for those businesses in the five health board areas across the central belt forced to close. We must have a clear plan for their reopening. We cannot afford to be left in limbo. It will just mean businesses unable to plan, employees worried for their jobs, consumer confidence shattered and businesses all the more likely to fail. The Government has to move quickly to save businesses and keep jobs alive.”

For the latest coronavirus guidance for Scotland, click here.

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