Covid Scotland: Closure of pubs and clubs damaging for mental well-being, says research

The closure of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants during the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the social and mental wellbeing of adults in the UK, research published today note-0reveals.
The interior of Edinburgh bar CC BloomsThe interior of Edinburgh bar CC Blooms
The interior of Edinburgh bar CC Blooms

The findings also show that young adults (47 per cent of the under-35s) have been most badly affected.

As Scotland moves to Level 0 today pubs and restaurants can now remain open until midnight if their licence allows it, customers will no longer need to book a two-hour slot but will still be required to provide details for Test and Protect.

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Almost two thirds of adults (62 per cent) of adults cited feelings of loneliness, feeling trapped at home and being unable to meet friends in the survey by YouGov for the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking.

However, the data also shows many people (49 per cent) now had a greater appreciation of what the hospitality sector provided – from places to meet to enjoying a meal or a drink prepared by someone else.

A majority (70 per cent) agreed that measures introduced as a result of the pandemic had changed the environment of hospitality venues for the better, compared with 8 per cent who felt it had been negatively affected.

When asked what recent changes they would like to see remain, 61 per cent said the improved cleanliness had been a bonus, better indoor ventilation (54 per cent), increased table service (48 per cent) and digital ordering and payments systems (37 per cent).

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Paul Waterson, spokesman for the Scottish Licenced Trade Association, said the findings proved how valuable the sector was but warned that staff shortages meant it was still under strain.

He said: “Pubs and bars were the original social network. They are all things to everyone, from pubs and restaurants to music venues and nightclubs. Social interaction is the basis of our society.

“The pandemic has seen a lot of changes for the industry. Previously only about 25 per cent of our businesses had outdoor seating. Now a number of regulatory authorities have allowed places to extend the number of tables outside.

“But while the survey has customers talking about the changes they’d like to see be kept on, the fact is we are facing significant staff shortages. Customers will need to bear with us.

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“There’s also a cost to everything and we’ve been utterly battered by the pandemic and there are a lot of premises which will not be opening up again.”

Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at the University of Stirling, said the hospitality sector had undergone massive change during the pandemic but that some of the practical changes were a benefit to everyone.

“There have been closures across all sectors with mental health affected, and that includes a number of students experiencing mental health problems.

“Obviously businesses have brought in changes for commercial reasons and to maximise numbers, but that’s not to say they won’t help staff and customers too.

“The outdoor tables create a healthier environment for us, as well as sitting outside in the sunshine. It is far better than being indoors.”

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