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SLTA: 'We’re a long way from fully reopening'

Published:  12 May, 2021

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has welcomed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's confirmation that the Scottish on-trade will be able to serve alcohol indoors until 10.30pm from 17 May, but warned the road ahead is long.  

While the announcement, made yesterday afternoon, provided “some positive” news for the licensed hospitality sector, "we’re a long way from fully reopening”, said SLTA. 

“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 26 April, haven’t really benefited in the way they had hoped given the poor weather,” said Colin Wilkinson, MD, SLTA

“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,” he said. 

Sturgeon’s confirmation that there would be additional financial support would offer “some comfort for businesses” in Moray, he added.

Calling for a quick resolution to the uncertainty around physical distancing, Sturgeon said that it would no longer be necessary in homes but remain in force in other settings, including bars, pubs and restaurants.  

“We need clarity on this as soon as possible as hospitality businesses operating small premises are simply not viable with physical distancing in place,” said Wilkinson. 

“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.”

Wilkinson also took the opportunity to reiterate how “many businesses” would continue to fall further into debt. 

“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,” he said.

Sturgeon’s announcement follows on from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s confirmation on Monday (10 May) that English hospitality venues would be able to open for indoor trading from 17 May, as part of the next stage of restrictions being lifted.