Business organisations have warned that the 16-day hospitality shutdown across Monklands and the rest of central Scotland “could mean last orders for many independent pubs and restaurants” – and “will sound the death knell for businesses across the hospitality sector”.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says the tightened coronavirus restrictions will also impact a number of other traders and industries and that “speed is of the essence” in distributing the promised £40 million in financial support to all those affected; while Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) spoke of how town centres will be impacted by the new closures.
All pubs, restaurants and licensed premises in Lanarkshire plus four other health board areas covering the whole of central Scotland are to shut at 6pm tomorrow until Monday, October 26, in response to surging rates of Covid-19 infection.
Bingo halls and snooker clubs will also close for the period; while cafes will be limited to opening from 6am until 6pm for food and non-alcoholic drinks only, increased social distancing will be reintroduced to shops and residents are being encouraged not to use public transport unless strictly necessary.
FSB expressed “disappointment” at what it called a “significant shutdown”, with Scotland group chair Andy Aird saying: “These moves could mean last orders for many independent pubs and restaurants in Lanarkshire without sufficient support from government; and they’ll also cause a significant knock-on impact to our hospitality supply chain, tourism sector and night-time economy like taxi drivers and takeaways.
“There has been a lot of coordinated effort by Lanarkshire’s business community, councils and Business Gateway to provide support and establish recovery plans, but the new restrictions could set back the ongoing local effort.
“Many responsible business owners feel they’ve risen to every challenge the government has set during this crisis – so it’s frustrating that policymakers are focusing on further restricting business activities when they have failed to persuade a share of the general public to follow the rules.”
He added that the mental health of small business owners and self-employed people is a priority for the organisation, which is providing advice to the enterprise community.
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Mr Aird added: “We will work with government to ensure that the £40m funding support reaches those businesses in the greatest need as quickly as possible, including those indirectly impacted by the changes.
“Governments north and south of the border need to ensure there’s enough help on offer to see smaller firms through a crisis that’s not of their making – these local firms aren’t expendable, and care needs to be taken not to treat them as such.”
SCC chief executive Dr Liz Cameron said: “These measures will sound the death knell for hospitality businesses, especially pubs and bars.
“Closures and restrictions will severely tamp down any signs of life in our town centres, which have already been devastated by offices remaining closed and cancellation of major events.
“The ‘stay local’ message will impact nationwide support for hospitality businesses during the October holiday period, and the knock-on impact will mean tough decisions, including the risk of potentially more redundancies.
“A lack of consultation with business only serves to compound the blow – in the vast majority of cases, the recent spread of the virus is not coming from business-managed environments, and we cannot continue to keep switching the lights of the economy on and off.”
She added of the funding support: “We will look closely at the detail of these packages, but we fear they will not be enough to avoid the worst of consequences for the Scottish economy – and we also need to ensure those businesses that have not been able to reopen yet, such as soft play, are also able to access this lifeline support.”
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) called the new restrictions “absolutely devastating for pubs and breweries”, with Scotland director Joe Crawford saying: “Without proper compensation now and longer-term financial support to help deal with reduced trade, we risk seeing thousands closing for good before Christmas”.