Edinburgh's licensed trade proposes 'tweaks' to Covid restrictions to help them survive

PUB operators in the Capital have drawn up detailed proposals for “tweaks” to Covid restrictions in a bid to help their businesses survive in the face of the pandemic.

By Ian Swanson
Monday, 30th November 2020, 4:45 pm
Under Level 3 restrictions, no alcohol can be served and premises must close at 6pm
Under Level 3 restrictions, no alcohol can be served and premises must close at 6pm

They claim almost 5,000 jobs have already been lost in the sector during the crisis and another 3,000 which would normally be created around Christmastime will not be on offer this year.

And they warn if there is no change to the Level Three regulations currently in force in Edinburgh – which mean no alcohol can be served and premises must close at 6pm – the hospitality sector, so important to the city’s economy, could disappear.

Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to put forward the proposals drawn up by leading members of the city’s licensed trade.

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Ian Murray wrote to Nicola Sturgeon proposing the pub operators' tweaks

He said they understood there had to be restrictions and they were fully signed up to suppressing the virus.

But he added: “They do ask though that consideration be given to a number of alterations to the levels to enable them to generate some revenue to see them through this difficult period. If the current Tier 3 restrictions in Edinburgh continue they will be left with no industry post-Covid and thousands of jobs will be lost.”

He said the licensed trade would prefer Edinburgh to be moved to Level 2, given the lower rates of infection in the city compared to much of Scotland.

But he set out “tweaks” they believed could be made to help keep businesses afloat.

They included:

- Changing the current 12-hour trading window from 6am-6pm to noon-8, 9 or 10pm to allow premises to offer a lunch sitting and two evening sittings for food.- Consider allowing alcohol on the basis of these new time slots but only when served with a meal.- Limit the time people could spend in a pub to a maximum of two hours for food only.- Make Edinburgh a pilot area for these new restrictions and monitor both the premises and infection rates from premises.- Put in place hefty fines for businesses that don’t comply with Covid-safe rules.

Mr Murray said one member of the trade had said such measures would transform the position of hospitality, halve the current “cash burn”, and save 25-50 per cent of staff losses.

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing responded to the letter, noting the suggestions but saying current measures were necessary, proportionate and based on evidence.

And he added: “I would hope that, within the range of financial support available, there is sufficient support to sustain Edinburgh’s licensed trade until Covid-19 is suppressed.”

But Mr Murray said: “Unless there is some changes that are backed by their own figures, the licensed trade isn’t going to survive – and that’s tens of thousands of jobs.

"These guys are on the edge of completely collapsing. All they’re saying is ‘Give us some tweaks – ok we’re not allowed to serve any alcohol but at least give us a couple of dinner services and a lunch’. At the moment they’ve got nothing – no-one’s going to the pub at 6am if there’s no alcohol, no-one’s going for lunch because the restrictions are too tight and no-one’s going for dinner because they shut at 6pm.

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