Positive news for licensed hospitality sector but ‘we’re a long way from fully reopening’, says SLTA

The SLTA (Scottish Licensed Trade Association) has made clear that the licensed hospitality industry is “a long way from fully reopening” but concedes that today’s confirmation that bars, restaurants and cafés will be able to serve alcohol indoors until 10.30pm from May 17 is “very welcome”.

SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson commented: “Today’s announcement is, of course, very welcome, particularly since outlets that have been in a position to serve alcohol outdoor since the last relaxation of restrictions, on April 26, haven’t really benefited in the way they had hoped given the poor weather.

“We are delighted for the island communities that can move down to Level 1 but it is disappointing – although completely understandable given the Covid situation – that it is highly probable Moray will remain in Level 3. That First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that there will be additional financial support will offer some comfort for businesses in Moray.”

Calling for a quick resolution to the uncertainty around physical distancing after Ms Sturgeon said that it would no longer be necessary in homes but remain in force in other settings, including pubs and restaurants, Mr Wilkinson said: “We need clarity on this as soon as possible as hospitality businesses operating small premises are simply not viable with physical distancing in place.

“This reaffirms the stark reality of the challenges facing the licensed trade in that we’re a long way from fully reopening despite the positivity of today’s announcement. And bear in mind that the late-night hospitality industry, including nightclubs, remains in meltdown with no indication of when it can start to welcome back customers.

“Many businesses will continue to fall further into debt and we have previously pointed out that a typical small hospitality business has taken on between £60,000 and £90,000 in bank debt and deferred bills as of February this year just to survive Covid, with that debt rising with every week of low or no income.”