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  • Music ban means Scottish Pubs could close

    27 August 2020

    The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has today said the ban on background music is having a devastating impact on the country’s pubs, with increased likelihood of closures and job losses as a direct result of the policy. It is urging the Scottish Government to reverse its ban on music and sound from TV in pubs, to help boost their businesses as they try to recover post-lockdown. The Scottish Government updated its guidance covering the sector on the 14th August to ban hospitality premises from playing music, including background music and sound from a TV. The policy has had a severe impact on Scottish pubs, with some seeing an immediate drop in trade of over 20% since the ban came in – on top of the fall in trade they are already facing as they recover post-lockdown. SBPA CEO Emma McClarkin said: “The ban on music and sound from TV in pubs has seen trade plummet across Scotland, to the point where it is simply not viable to stay open. Takings are down as much as 20% since the ban came in. “Not only is it hammering the recovery of our sector, but there is evidence to suggest the policy is having the opposite of its desired effect. A lack of commentary at football matches makes it harder to control customers watching the game. Customers seeking privacy in their conversations are more likely to lean in and whisper. Rather than go to their local, people are gathering at home where safety measures are not in place. “There is an easy middle ground to be had here, where responsible pubs can be allowed to create an atmosphere and ambience that makes them what they are, whilst controlling noise to a level which doesn’t require customers to shout. “Music adds to the ambience and atmosphere of the pub. Without music our venues are losing more of their soul.” Louise MacLean from Signature Pubs based in Edinburgh said: “The music ban is having a direct impact on our business and in some venues trade is moving in the wrong direction. We strictly adhere to all social distancing and the restrictions to trade which has affected the atmosphere in bars prior to the music ban. Customers don’t want to go to venues that are silent and awkward so inevitably our takings are down. “We understand the concern about noise but we would happily work with Scottish Government officials and set decibel levels to create a welcoming atmosphere within acceptable limits. Otherwise the future for bars in Scotland looks bleak as autumn approaches and inside spaces become more important. “Hospitality denotes warmth, ambiance and welcome not cold, clinical and sterile. Let the (soft) music play! We can do this safely.”

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  • No Date for Beer Gardens and Outdoor Areas for Pub Sector

    18 June 2020

    Following the First Minister’s announcement this afternoon that the decision on re-opening outdoor areas of pubs, bars and other licensed venues will be reviewed on 2 July, 2020, Emma McClarkin CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) said:“Pubs and bars across Scotland will be somewhat disappointed by this announcement, with many expecting to be given a definitive date today for re-opening their outdoor space to allow them to start preparing to open again. That’s sadly not the case, with these businesses now having to wait a further two weeks before any clarity on when they can welcome back their customers into beer gardens and other outdoor areas. “The First Minister committed the Government to working with our industry over the next two weeks and we will enthusiastically engage in that to get our pubs and bars re-open as soon as possible. With our industry now going three months without any customers and fighting for survival, that opportunity cannot come soon enough. “While the re-opening of outdoor space would provide some relief to parts of our sector, the vast majority of pubs will be looking towards the 15th July for the full re-opening. Even then, there remains issues for our sector that need to be addressed to properly unlock the economic boost our pubs can contribute to the national economy. “Continuing to operate at a two metre social distance will make opening financially unviable for many and could results in over 23,600 job losses in our sector alone. A survey of our members shows that moving to the World Health Organisation backed one metre distance that many other countries have adopted would allow the majority of premises to safely open their doors again.”

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  • Over 23,600 hospitality jobs on the line if social distancing guidelines are not re-examined

    16 June 2020

    A survey conducted by the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) in conjunction with other members of the licensed trade has revealed that Scotland’s pubs could be decimated, if social distancing guidelines are not re-examined in time for the provisional re-opening of premises on 15 July. The survey, which covered over 300 pubs across Scotland (around 7% of the total), found that it would not be financially viable for almost nine out of ten landlords to reopen their doors if the two-metre distancing guidelines were still in place – potentially leading to the direct loss of over 23,600 jobs within the trade. With many of Scotland’s key independent restaurant and pub businesses coming together to call for the Scottish Government to fall in-line with the World Health Organisation’s guidance, including a one-metre rule for social distancing, it’s hoped that their approach will help kick-start the industry and save jobs in the hospitality sector. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said: “The results make for stark reading. Not only will 87 per cent of those surveyed be unable to open, those that can trade at the two-metre mark will potentially have to let 52 per cent of staff go. This would lead to over 23,600 jobs losses in our sector alone. “Keeping a two-metre rule in place simply does not make financial sense and the fall out will see the loss of thousands of jobs affecting both the Scottish economy and local communities in the process. “We have seen within the survey that whilst implementing a controlled environment to protect both customers and staff and dropping social distancing measures to one metre, we will see 82 per cent of licensed businesses being able to open their doors to the public and provide a much needed boost to the industry. “What’s clear is that the majority of licensed premises will simply not be able to operate under the proposed two-metre distancing, leading to mass unemployment within the sector. We are calling upon the Scottish Government to both reassess the current measures in place if they wish to kick-start the industry and work with us to safeguard over 23,600 jobs.” Lisa Wishart, from Lisini's, said: “Here at Lisini’s, it is simply not viable for us to reopen on 15 July due to the current social distancing rules. However, if we followed the World Health Organisation’s directive, not only could we provide a safe environment for our patrons, we would be able to safeguard most of our employees livelihood’s as we return to a new normal post Coronavirus.” The SBPA and wider group which includes Star Pubs and Bars, Belhaven, Hawthorn Leisure, Admiral Taverns, Punch Taverns, Caledonian Heritable Ltd, DRG, Buzzworks, Montpeliers, Manorview, Signature Pubs, Lisini and Caledonia Inns are keen to point out that as responsible license holders, not only could venues be classed as ‘controlled environments’ that would allow them to track and trace customers through a number of different methods - over 85 per cent of those surveyed planned to use PPE for staff when able to reopen. Case Studies: Mo Clark from Kained Holdings, who operate several bars including Lebowskis in Edinburgh and Glasgow said: “The current guidelines of 2m distancing would not allow for the majority of bars to operate profitably. Reducing some sites to 40 per cent trading capacity which simply does not work under most business models. “The focus for bars and restaurants across the sector which wish to remain viable, will be to reduce their cost base which will undoubtedly lead to significant redundancies. Those who are unable to find a path through this will have to shut their doors completely, further increasing the inevitable redundancies. “Particularly, where vertical drinking has made a business viable, the continuation of the 2m distancing means that many businesses couldn't even open their doors, let alone be profitable.” Gavin Stevenson from Gellions in Inverness said: "The Gellions is a Scottish live music pub trading since 1841 in Inverness. We book around 650, mostly Scottish, live music gigs a year and rely on being close to capacity most nights to remain financially viable. With two-metre social distancing our nearly 200 capacity venue reduces to just 11 people.  “In a normal year our profit margin is less than 5 per cent of turnover and obviously there is no way for us to get even close to financial break-even with such huge reductions in trade. We'd lose more money opening under the proposed restrictions than we would staying closed.” Kevin McGee from Athletic Arms ‘Diggers’, in Dalry, Edinburgh said: “I’m bored silly, I’m a people person and can’t wait to open the doors. If it’s 2-meters it’ll most likely be me working with one other on reduced trading hours. In contrast, a 1-meter difference and we can get more staff off furlough, trade longer, start to pay off some bills and support the local community again.” Stuart McPhee from Siberia Bar & Hotel in Aberdeen said: “While we have a vast floor space and a versatile outside area within Siberia, the ability to service this at two-metre social distances takes what would normally be three people in a kitchen down to one on a given shift, and four people behind the bar when busy halved to two. “Regardless of how many people you can fit outside or inside customer wise, there is a direct impact on what kind of service our staffing levels can achieve. Where we will try and maintain our staff by diversifying our service style and rotating in teams post Covid, it is clear that tough operational choices lay ahead.  “We have solutions and we have things we can implement such as entry temperature checks, PPE & disinfectant fogging now that can make our environments covid secure and regulated, that could mean we as an industry could be permitted to lower the distance to survive and prevent further job losses across the sector.” David Stein from Cafebar 1807 in Linlithgow said: “While I believe we need to listen to the experts, it will be completely unviable for us to open in any capacity until we have a 1m rule.”  Nic Wood from Signature Pubs added: “We cannot operate all of our businesses with 2m social distancing restrictions, and closures in the sector will sadly continue with bars and restaurants mothballed beyond the end of furlough. We are not ignoring the transmission rate or the health issues, merely stating that 2m makes some businesses unviable.”

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  • Scottish Beer and Pub Association Respond To Re-Opening Date

    10 June 2020

    Commenting on the announcement from the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing that hospitality businesses could possibly reopen for indoor use on July 15 in Scotland, Emma McClarkin CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said: “The setting of a date for reopening is some positive news for the country’s pubs and brewers, and something we have been pushing the Scottish Government on for several weeks. This gives some much-needed clarity for the sector and will also give industry the time necessary to put in place what is needed to reopen safely on the 15th of July. “However, there is still a number of challenges for pubs that can’t be forgotten. Under the current two-metre social distancing rules, we believe up to two-thirds of Scotland’s pubs will need to remain closed. It is imperative for the hospitality sector that the Scottish Government explores the World Health Organisation’s suggested one-metre rule for social distancing. ‘Other countries, like New Zealand have allowed their pubs to safely re-open up at one-metre distance. If this was followed in Scotland, we could save thousands of jobs which otherwise will be lost through redundancies.”  

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  • Beer And Pub Sector Respond To Scottish Roadmap Out Of Lockdown

    21 May 2020

    Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Government’s Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis, Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said: “We are pleased by today’s publication and to see pubs included as part of a possible, limited reopening utilising outdoor spaces in Phase 2. This would be great news for those pubs which are in a position to re-open at this point, however no two pubs are the same and the practical challenges may mean that many premises will remain closed during this period. “While the publication of the Scottish framework is welcome, it is clear that further detail will be needed for our sector to be able to look forward with confidence. We believe that pubs should only open when it is safe to do so, but the lack of any dates being attached to phases 2 and 3 gives us some concern. “Pubs and the wider hospitality sector need at least three full weeks’ notice to be ready for reopening, as retraining of staff, replenishment of stock and other fundamental factors cannot happen overnight especially with new restrictions and measures needing to be implemented. “The current social-distancing requirements of 2 metres, also present significant challenges for pubs. We would urge both the Scottish and UK governments to strongly investigate moving to 1 metre distancing, as endorsed by the World Health Organisation. “We are committed to working closely with government to get our nation’s pubs back open as quickly as safe and possible to do so, but to do that we need to work collaboratively on the reopening plans and ensure adequate notice to get ready. “Finally, if pubs are to remain closed for a significant period of time, additional financial support will be needed. Without it, the social hubs and heart of communities in many towns, villages and cities across Scotland will be lost forever.”

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    02 May 2020

    New research by the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has revealed that an estimated 1500 pubs eligible for vital grants, still haven’t received the funds from Local Authorities to help them survive the COVID-19 lockdown. The research showed that Glasgow City Council, which has 384 pubs eligible for the Coronavirus Business Support grants of £10,000 or £25,000, had the lowest percentage of grants paid with only 25% of applications reaching businesses as of the 28th of April. This leaves an estimated 288 pubs in the city without the much-needed lifeline of support, and only 96 receiving the funds. Across the whole of Scotland, 3,929 pubs are estimated to be eligible for a grant, with 61% (2,403) receiving the funds. This leaves an estimated 1526 pubs without this much needed cashflow at the end of the month, when bills and payments are due. The Local Authorities with the lowest percentage of approved applications for grant support are: Glasgow; 25.05% Approved; 288 Pubs without funds. South Lanarkshire; 48.95% Approved; 80 Pubs without funds. Fife; 51.71% Approved; 143 Pubs without funds. In contrast, those with highest percentage of approved applications for grant support are: Scottish Borders; 95.86% Approved; 5 Pubs without funds. Aberdeenshire; 83.84% Approved; 31 Pubs without funds. Clackmannanshire; 81.45% Approved; 7 Pubs without funds. The support package was announced by the Finance Secretary Kate Forbes in March, with Local Authorities expected to receive funds within 10 days. Over one month later, many businesses have still seen no sign of the cash. Commenting on the research, Emma McClarkin CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said: “Our research shows that too many Local Authorities are not paying grants to pubs and other hospitality businesses anywhere near quickly enough, with over 1500 pubs across Scotland estimated to still be waiting. For smaller pub businesses in particularthis grant funding is urgently needed. “This needs to be rectified immediately. Otherwise, pubs will close for good and the thousands of people they employ will lose jobs. “Credit must go to those Local Authorities who are doing the right thing and getting their grants to pubs and other businesses quickly. We need the Local Authorities to learn from best practice and get the urgently needed support to pub businesses as a matter of urgency.” This table uses data from the SBPA and that published by the Scottish Government here: Information on the Coronavirus Business Support grants (via local authorities is available here:

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