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Pubs will be forced to cut capacity by up to 80% under social distancing rules when they reopen and may need extra financial support for years, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association has warned.
SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said a normality was a long way off for his members after the Scottish Government revealed its road map out of the coronavirus lockdown.
Pubs with outdoor areas may be able to open when phase two of the plan begins, possibly in early July, but even for them the cost of doing so may prove too high.
Wilkinson said: “We welcome the release of the Scottish Government’s route map to recovery and see this as an important start to a return to some sort of normality whatever that may be.
“There were no real surprises in the recovery plan announced and, as we all suspected, the licensed trade will be one of the last to fully reopen.
“The announcement that licensed premises with outdoor areas will be able to reopen sooner is of some comfort for those who can provide this facility and at a scale which makes it viable to do so and can overcome social distancing restriction. But for most, those with a small or no outside area, there is no early reprieve.”
The indoor areas of pubs won’t be able to reopen until phase three of the plan but even those with beer gardens may struggle to do business before then, said Wilkinson. A full reopening of bars is not expected until early August at best.
He added: “For those who might now consider to use an area they have not used before there are the onerous hurdles of planning and licensing requirements to overcome, not to mention costs. Let’s also not forget social distancing measures that will need to be put in place, which if maintained at the current level of 2m, could cut normal capacity by between 60% and 80%.
“Last, but not least, the Scottish weather comes into the fray and if outdoor areas are to be truly outdoor, then there should be no canopies, side screens, marquees etc – otherwise what’s the difference between being outdoors or in an indoor area?
“The bottom line is that each business will need to assess the practicalities, cost and viability of opening up an outdoor area. Governments must not see this initial partial opening opportunity and the future full opening of the industry, both with social distancing restrictions in place, as a marker to phase out the vital ongoing and additional support this industry will need for the months, if not years, ahead.”