Wet-led pubs call for support

With takings down, smaller premises are struggling to survive

pint pouring

TRADITIONAL, wet-led pubs across Scotland could be at risk of closing their doors without further government support.

Operators said reduced capacities due to social distancing guidelines – particularly in smaller venues – coupled with the ‘ban’ on background music have significantly cut takings – with costs due to rise further in the coming months.

Speaking to SLTN Lisa Dempsey of The Wee Howff in Paisley said capacity in her pub has fallen from 112 customers to just 25 under COVID-19 restrictions.

With takings a fraction of the pub’s normal trade, Dempsey said she is concerned about the ending of the UK Government’s furlough scheme at the end of October.

“I’ve got people on furlough and I’m going to have to pay 10% (of their wage),” she said. “They’re not working but I still have to pay them and I don’t have any money.

“There’s more going out now than is coming in. We’re trying to do the best in an unfortunate situation but it’s very hard.

“We got a government grant but that was gone (quickly), once you pay the bills.

“I don’t want to be like Oliver asking for more, but the way it’s going, we need help.”

Ian Gibson, owner of Platform 3 in Linlithgow, Winstons in Corstorphine and The Volunteer Arms in Uphall, said he is also struggling with the reduced capacity required by coronavirus rules.

In Platform 3, for example, capacity has fallen from around 60 before the pandemic to just 19 customers.

“The biggest problem is that there’s only seven or eight tables,” said Gibson.

“The other day I was just leaving and a pal of mine was going for a quick snifter on his way home. The only table that was left was a table of five. So he got his pint and sat down.

“Then, Murphy’s Law, four people come in looking for a table and there’s no space for them.”

Like Dempsey, Gibson said he is worried about the end of the furlough scheme and increasing costs while takings remain low.

The end of the Scottish Government’s non-domestic rates relief period in March 2021 is also a concern.

“Is a vaccine going to be here by next March when the rates kick back in?” said Gibson. “Because if you had to pay rates on top of what we’re taking we would just shut up.”

Scottish Licensed Trade Association spokesman, Paul Waterson, said the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme should be extended for hospitality businesses.

“It must be extended,” he said. “For the simple reason that you can’t pay staff if there’s no money coming in.”

And he called on the Scottish Government to provide further assistance for traditional pubs.

“These pubs are vital to the local communities they serve,” said Waterson.

“They don’t have a food offer of any consequence so they weren’t getting anything from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme or the VAT cut. So we’ve got to come up with something else for them.”