Covid rules have had ‘profound impact’ on hospitality trade, MPs told
Coronavirus closures have had a “profound impact” on Scottish hospitality businesses and companies are also facing rising debt, MPs have been told.
Groups representing the sector also raised concerns about the timing of indoor alcohol sales returning as well as limits on trading hours.
Some regulations were described as “nonsensical”, and the MPs were told more than 200 pubs have been forced to close for good.
Several organisations addressed a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster on Thursday.
Stephen Montgomery, of the Scottish Hospitality Group, said the current rules will ultimately allow alcohol to be served indoors at weddings but not pubs from April 26.
Businesses in the group are building up debts of more than £80,000, he said, while mental health problems among staff are becoming a “big issue”.
He told MPs on the committee that ideas had been submitted to the Scottish Government but “not one of our proposals has been taken on board”.
Claiming there is no evidence of hospitality being linked to a higher spread of coronavirus than other venues, Mr Montgomery added: “There is no greater impact than what there is from going to a supermarket or anywhere else.
“So our viability of being able to trade as we come out of this is being further hampered by the fact that we put all of these proposals in and we’re not getting listened to.”
Paul Togneri, representing the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said at least 200 pubs have been lost forever, while £820 million in beer sales have been wiped from the sector.
He said: “The impact has been profound.
“We’re still waiting to see how we will make progress out of the situation but it will require support from both governments at Holyrood and Westminster to help support the sector get back to the economic powerhouse which it once was before the pandemic.”
Mr Togneri said the curfew on alcohol sales raises problems and many businesses will be unviable until fully licensed hours return.
Willie Macleod, an executive director of UK Hospitality, said some businesses will delay their reopening until May 17 when indoor alcohol sales are due to begin again.
Discussing the rules in place last year, he said: “We were being given examples from hoteliers of people drinking in their room before they came down for dinner, disappearing during a meal to consume alcohol in their room and then coming back down.
“Some of these regulations are just verging on the nonsensical really.”
Mr Macleod said guidance issued during the pandemic has been getting longer and longer and is “now turning into something resembling the New Testament”.