The SLTA (Scottish Licensed Trade Association) has reiterated its disappointment that Scotland’s bars, restaurants and cafés will still not be able to serve alcohol indoors until the licensed hospitality industry begins to reopens more freely next month.

SLTA managing director Wilkinson said that while his organisation welcomed today’s announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to lift restrictions on travelling around Scotland and allow people to meet up in larger groups outdoors from Friday, it will do nothing to help the vast majority of licensed trade businesses.

“We appreciate the baby steps and the continuing need for caution but for most opening on April 26 will simply be unviable and that’s without taking into account the unpredictable Scottish weather,” he said. “Even many businesses with suitable facilities to serve people customers outdoors have decided to wait until May 17 when the industry will be able to open until 10.30pm indoors with alcohol permitted and, for outdoors, until 10pm.

“We are now urging the Scottish Government to consider loosening these restrictions to give our industry a fighting chance. England has reopened its hospitality industry so let’s fall into line with our colleagues south of the Border.”

According to a recent industry report, only 22.9 per cent of licensed premises in Scotland have designated outdoors areas. Mr Wilkinson added: “By our reckoning it will not be viable for about two-thirds of the licensed trade to reopen on April 26.”

He said that while eligible businesses may be entitled to one-off cash “restart grants” from local councils, Covid restrictions will continue into June and beyond, leading businesses further into debt. Mr Wilkinson said: “The typical small hospitality business has taken on between £60,000 and £90,000 in bank debt and deferred bills as of February this year just to survive Covid – and the debt is rising with every week of low or no income.”

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