An independent study by BiGGAR Economics - commissioned by Diageo on behalf of the hospitality sector - has found that adjusting opening hours by around two and a half hours and allowing alcohol to be served under strictly controlled conditions would increase hospitality business turnover from £419m to £1.1bn, increasing the number of jobs supported from the current 28,300 to 60,800 and securing the viability of 1,816 businesses.
In response to the report, Scotland’s main hospitality groups, the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA), Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) and UKHospitality-Scotland (UKH-Scotland) are now calling for the Scottish Government to implement the changes to save businesses and jobs.
The changes to restrictions would also transform the impact on public finances, according to the study, turning a £261m fiscal cost of subsidy into a £63m positive tax contribution.
The economic impact study examined three potential alternative policy scenarios, all of which retain key restrictions to prevent the spread of Coronavirus but that allow longer opening hours and alcohol to be served across Levels 1 to 3 of the Scottish Government’s regional restrictions.
The first looked at extending closing times from 8pm to 10.30pm and allowing alcohol to be served with food in Levels 1 to 3. The scenario supports £927m in turnover and 53,100 jobs but represents a cost of £14m.
The second looked at also allowing wet-led pubs and bars that don’t serve food to be open until 8pm in Levels 1 to 3. This supports £1.1bn in turnover, 60,800 jobs, and a fiscal benefit of £63m.
The third alternative policy scenario looked at allowing all hospitality businesses to be open until 10.30pm and to serve alcohol. This supports £1.2bn in turnover, 65,400 jobs, and a fiscal benefit of £105m.
“This economic impact study shows that relatively minor changes to opening hours and allowing businesses to serve alcohol responsibly, would transform the commercial viability of the sector,” says CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association Emma McClarkin.
Director of UKHospitality-Scotland, Wille MacLeod says: “The restrictions, as currently in place, have a disproportionate impact on the hospitality sector and is costing the Scottish economy millions of pounds. A relaxation, as has been suggested by the industry would give our sector a transformative boost and help support business in the crucial recover period.”