The upcoming bank holiday weekend is “essential” for Scotland’s hospitality industry and the “wee jolt in the arm” the sector needs, according to one bar and restaurant owner.
Colin Clydesdale is the co-owner of establishments including Ubiquitous Chip, Stravaigin and Hanoi Bike Shop, with those among the many in Glasgow he says have “effectively shut since October”.
It was announced late in the afternoon of Friday May 14 that Glasgow would remain in Level 3 of Scotland’s coronavirus restrictions while most of the country would drop to Level 2 the following Monday.
A move to Level 2 brings widespread relaxations in the hospitality and entertainment industry, including allowing venues to serve alcohol indoors.
With a bank holiday Monday approaching, Mr Clydesdale is pleading for more notice to be given on the outcome of the weekly review of restrictions – even if it means hearing Level 3 will continue.
He told the PA news agency: “We’ve got the bank holiday which will bring income, income is exactly what this industry needs so rather than leaving it to the last minute, tell us in advance either way because at the moment we’re trying to second-guess the scenario and no-one’s got a clue.
“If the figures are stacking up and it looks like they’re going to allow us to open, then give us as much notice as humanly possible – 4.45pm on a Friday is not enough.
“Let’s not be naive here, this weekend is necessary to the trade, it’s the wee jolt in the arm it needs to get itself possibly started, businesses have sustained huge losses for over a year – you tell me which other trade has been asked to do that.
“No other business has been treated like this and it’s not just a business – there are tens of thousands of jobs in Glasgow alone and that’s just in the establishments… there’s fishermen that aren’t landing catches because Glasgow’s not buying it at the moment.”
It had been anticipated that Glasgow would move to Level 2 on May 17, and Mr Clydesdale said his team spent three days making phone calls cancelling 700 bookings when it was announced on May 14 that that was not going to happen.
He added: “Every bar and restaurant in Glasgow had spent an enormous amount of money just to get themselves ready to go after 14 months of the worst trading period ever and at the end of it had the feet kicked from under us.
“We now appear to be getting to a position where we may well be allowed to reopen, ‘cautiously optimistic’ is the phrase they’re using.
“If the statistics have gone wild then nobody in this industry doesn’t understand, they have to try and get the numbers back down so that’s not what it’s about – it’s about clarity in their messaging.
“Everybody in this industry has tried our level best to accommodate whatever restrictions were put on us and let’s be fair here – hospitality has been on the hook for this over and over and over again.
“We’ve been shut effectively since last October, we had two sets of two weeks when we’ve been allowed to trade until 6pm – how on earth can this now be hospitality’s fault?
“It just doesn’t stack up and here we are penalised again… the only folk in the UK that can’t sell a pint inside.”
Jonathan MacDonald, owner of Ox and Finch and Ka Pao in Glasgow, also told PA: “I was generally supportive of restrictions when things were getting out of hand, at least you are all in it together.
“But it’s the really arbitrary stuff that effects hospitality and our ability to employ people.
“We’d like some notice of changes. Ministers have shown a real lack of thought really in not allowing people to plan.
“Throughout the whole pandemic we have had to be really nimble. At every stage we have always found out that we are closing in a matter of days or not able to sell alcohol, so we have been massively reliant on furlough.
“We want to be able to open to trade more normally than we can now as soon as possible but there’s so many complexities.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We’ve been clear since the beginning of the pandemic that we will continue to follow scientific advice, keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions when possible.
“We understand the difficult situation faced by local businesses as a result of Glasgow remaining in Level 3 and are doing all we can to mitigate against the impact of the continuing restrictions.
“We continue to closely monitor the situation and will look not just at the case numbers but also the data on hospital and ICU admissions before making a decision later this week.
“While we recognise that business support cannot, and is not intended to, make up for all losses, we are giving Glasgow City Council an additional £1.05 million a week to provide hospitality and leisure businesses up to £750 a week.”
Mr Clydesdale said he only received £525 and “that wouldn’t even have covered the wages for us to cancel the bookings”.