Hospitality sector suffers amid latest Covid restrictions

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Several Campbeltown and Kintyre hoteliers and bar owners have spoken out about the potentially ‘crippling’ impact of the latest government restrictions on the hospitality sector.

New temporary measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 were introduced last week in a bid to tackle a record rise in cases.

The 16-day ‘circuit break’ lockdown is in place across Scotland, with tighter restrictions across the central belt, where the infection rate is highest.

The new measures, which came into force last Friday, mean pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues serving food and drink are only allowed to open indoors between 6am and 6pm, as long as they do not sell alcohol. Licensed premises will be able to sell alcohol outdoors until 10pm.

Takeaways can continue, and evening meals may be served in accommodation for residents only but no alcohol can be served.

The restrictions have resulted in some major operational changes for some businesses, while many pubs have chosen to close their doors completely until after the restrictions are lifted.

Nick Fletcher, owner of the Argyll Hotel Bellochantuy and secretary at Explore Kintyre and Gigha, said: ‘The hospitality sector has worked hard in Kintyre to adapt to the Scottish Government’s necessary restrictions over the past few months to ensure both our customers and our team members are as safe as they can be. This has resulted in a drop in business for most of us, but we accept that as the price to be paid in playing our part to control the virus.

‘However, these new restrictions are a little more problematic, and are hitting some hospitality businesses hard. We have struggled to really understand the ethos behind being able to serve food to non-residents during the day but not after 6pm, when they would be as socially distanced as they are during the day.

‘Our capacity was already down by about 60 per cent. This now makes it well over 70 per cent, as the hotel’s maximum number of residents is 14. This obviously puts a strain on the business. Thankfully our takeaway service is making up for some of this and giving the business a bit of a cushion from the new restrictions.

‘The support we’ve received from the local community through the takeaway service, particularly last weekend as the restrictions came into force, has been quite gratifying and overwhelming and made a big difference to the business.’

Amanda Grant, office manager at Campbeltown’s Ardshiel Hotel, which is world renowned for its award-winning whisky bar, described the changes as ‘another massive blow’ to those in the hospitality sector.

She explained that the Ardshiel has made some changes to its services in response to the restrictions, including offering more home-baking, extending its lunch service and re-starting its takeaway service.

She said: ‘I’m hopeful that the restrictions are changed to at least allow alcohol to be sold with meals indoors, and to allow non-residents to dine with us after 6pm, as this closure time doesn’t suit most working families. Without these changes it will be crippling to businesses.

‘I’m hopeful with all of the additional Covid safety measures we have in place, people will still be encouraged to come to the Ardshiel whilst the rules allow them to meet with another household.

‘Without the continued local support and commitment from all of our team it wouldn’t be possible to stay open.

‘It’s sad to see so many local pubs that have made the hard decision to close their doors during this phase of lockdown but I can understand why and wish them all the best for when the rules are lifted.’

The Burnside Bar is one of the few town pubs which has decided to remain open.

Euan McLean, co-owner of the Burnside, said: ‘We are still open, albeit at further reduced capacity, due to being limited to alcohol outside only. We have had to reduce part-time staff due to reduced customers. It is proving difficult trying to operate with just an outside bar area in this colder October weather.

‘We understand the need for further restrictions given the rise of cases, but obviously the new restrictions are putting further strain on an already struggling hospitality sector in Kintyre. Hopefully any restrictions can be decided at a local level in future, due to a much lower number of cases here.’