Scottish Government urged to recognise ‘vital role’ of hospitality sector in curbing COVID

Bars and restaurants crucial part of solution not the problem, says trade group

THE Scottish Government has been urged to recognise the ‘vital role’ of Scotland’s hospitality sector in helping curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Scottish Hospitality Group said its members, which include The DRG Group, Buzzworks Holdings, Signature Pubs, Montpeliers, Manorview Group, Lisini Pub Co, Caledonia Inns, G1 Group, Siberia Bar & Hotel, Mor-Rioghain Group and Caledonian Heritable, have served 1,867,000 customers since their venues reopened and recorded 17 confirmed cases among customers and staff.

The group is calling on politicians to recognise the “crucial role which the industry can play in helping combat the spread of COVID-19”, warning that “tighter curfews and shutdowns would dramatically increase the spread of the outbreak as people would simply continue to socialise at home”. It has written to the first minister, cabinet secretaries and Holyrood committee convenors inviting them to “see for themselves” the robust safety measures operators are implementing to keep staff and customers safe.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said bars and restaurants are a “crucial part of the solution to combat COVID, not the problem”.

“If they are closed down, even for a short time, all the evidence shows that people will simply socialise at home, without any of the safeguards we’ve spent months implementing,” he said.

“Between them, our members have served over 1.8 million customers since reopening after the lockdown and have recorded a total of 17 confirmed cases of COVID. That shows how rigorously we have been implementing the rules and how counter-productive it would be to impose further restrictions.

“The current curfew is not the answer, as we have all seen. It leads to overcrowding in the streets, on public transport and to more house parties, which are major sources of infection. Police Scotland broke up 300 house parties last weekend alone and that will only be the tip of the iceberg.

“Our sector has an absolutely vital part to play in combatting this virus. We have bent over backwards to ensure staff and customers are protected, with huge efforts being made by the vast majority of responsible operators in social distancing, PPE, track and trace and other hygiene measures.

“We would urge politicians to visit our premises to see for themselves just how much effort has been put in to make Scotland’s bars and restaurants safe and secure places for people to come together.

“As well as the public health risks of shutting down the Scottish hospitality sector, the economic cost will be catastrophic for an industry worth £10.6 billion to the Scottish economy annually and which employs 285,000 people. Many of those jobs will be lost forever if businesses which are already on their knees are forced to close.”