Scottish hospitality businesses demand equal treatment to English counterparts with extension of opening hours

Georgina Hayes
·3-min read
The industry is calling on the Government to allow 10pm closure times in tiers 2 and 3 - Shutterstock
The industry is calling on the Government to allow 10pm closure times in tiers 2 and 3 - Shutterstock

SNP ministers are facing renewed calls to relax restrictions on the beleaguered hospitality sector after it emerged that a controversial 10pm curfew will be scrapped in England.

Under the new three-level system south of the border, pubs and restaurants in Tier 1 can open and serve alcohol with last orders at 10pm and a closing time of 11pm, while businesses in Tier 2 can also remain open until 11pm and serve alcohol if it is with a “substantial meal”.

However, under the second-highest level of Scotland’s five-tier system, alcohol cannot be served at all, with businesses having to close at 6pm. Firms in the middle level areas in Scotland will also face harsher curbs than are in force south of the border, including an 8pm closing time for indoor businesses in Tier 2.

Industry representatives in Scotland called for parity with their English counterparts.

“What we want to see is the Scottish Government introducing our proposals to extend trading hours in tiers 2 and 3 to 10pm,” Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said.

On both sides of the border, hospitality businesses in areas with the highest restrictions must close completely.

Coronavirus podcast - Has hospitality been unfairly targeted?
Coronavirus podcast - Has hospitality been unfairly targeted?

“By extending opening times by just a few hours, it means families could socialise safely and businesses can bring in enough money to cover fixed costs such as rent, furlough contributions, and staff pension payments,” Mr Montgomery said 

Willie Macleod, director of UK Hospitality Scotland, called for “parity” with businesses in the rest of the UK..

“We have yet to see evidence that hospitality is a major source of the transmission of an outbreak,” he added.

The sector has repeatedly called for more evidence to be published that would justify the restrictions. 

Colin Wilkinson, spokesperson for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “If they feel it’s the right move to take that course [of scrapping the 10pm curfew] in England, then why should it be different in Scotland? Give operators a chance to open and operate a little bit more normally.”

Mario Gizzi, director of Scotland’s largest independently-owned restaurant operator DiMaggio’s Group, argued that hospitality businesses are one of the safer ways to allow people to socialise.

“What we’re saying is tweak the tiers. Let us trade for longer and then we are less of a burden on the furlough,” he said.

The row comes after five of Scotland’s hospitality bodies took the unprecedented step last month of joining forces to commence legal action against the Government over the restrictions in a “battle to save” the industry.

The industry has accused the Government of treating them like "sacrificial lambs" - PA
The industry has accused the Government of treating them like "sacrificial lambs" - PA

Among the demands were better consultation and engagement from the Scottish Government, but the Government’s response to the pre-action letter has “failed to address these concerns”, the group said on Tuesday night.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We fully understand the challenges facing the hospitality sector as we look to balance measures to suppress the virus and protect lives with keeping businesses open and trading viably.

“We believe the current time restrictions for hospitality at levels 2 and 3 are the correct balance but we will continue to build on our constructive dialogue with the industry and listen to their concerns as we move into the new levels framework. The tiers progressively reduce the opportunity for spread of the virus, reducing contact between people in terms of frequency, volume and duration, and especially in circumstances that lead to the breakdown in the compliance with these.”