When will bars, pubs and restaurants reopen in Scotland after Covid lockdown?

Hospitality has been closed in Scotland for weeks now, with many of us wondering when bars, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen.

Published 27th Jan 2021
Updated 20 th Sep 2023

Nicola Sturgeon has extended lockdown until mid-February, but when might pubs reopen after these restrictions are eased?

Hospitality has been one of the sectors worst impacted by the Covid pandemic, with a third of the UK’s jobs being in pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars.

The sector employs around 12 percent of Scotland's population - 220,000 people directly and a further 120,000 people indirectly.

Anticipation around the reopening of pubs and restaurants can be felt strongly across the country - among staff and customers alike.

So, when could pubs, bars and restaurants reopen after lockdown? This is what we know so far.

When could pubs and restaurants reopen?

No specific date has been confirmed for lifting lockdown in Scotland, with pubs and restaurants closed until at the very earliest mid-February.

Nicola Sturgeon put Scotland into a national lockdown on Boxing Day 2020, and suggested that a tiered system could be reintroduced by the end of January.

However, the most recent restrictions have since been extended to mid-February, by which time all over 70s and clinically extremely vulnerable people will have been vaccinated.

The return to a tiered system could be expected after 15 February, but there is no guarantee that this will happen, or that it would allow for the immediate trading of pubs and restaurants to resume.

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It is largely expected that pubs will be the last to reopen within the hospitality sector, given that the Scottish Government aims to keep alcohol consumption down, with curfews for hospitality venues likely to be reintroduced.

At present, restaurants and pubs are legally bound to remain shut and as of 18 January, no alcoholic beverages can be served via takeaway and collections of food cannot take place inside a premises. Deliveries are still permitted.

When can we expect tiered lockdowns to end?

Pubs and restaurants may not allow punters to socialise and enjoy normal hospitality settings until mid-July, since a tiered system is largely expected to remain in place until vaccinations have been administered across all nine priority groups.

Hospitality settings are widely considered one of the most likely places for Covid to spread, despite significant efforts to introduce guidelines to help stop the virus spreading in confined settings.

On 19 January, the First Minister told the Scottish Parliament: “Any relaxation of lockdown while case numbers remain high, even though they might be declining, could quickly send the situation into reverse.

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“We believe that the lockdown restrictions - and the sacrifices everyone continues to make - are beginning to have an impact. However, it is important to be cautious.

“I continue to be very grateful to people across the country for their patience and resilience in the face of this extraordinary challenge.

“At the moment, lockdown is the best way of keeping each other safe, as vaccination continues. It is how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

The Scottish Government has now scaled up its vaccination efforts, with ambitions to provide the first dose of the vaccine to all priority groups by the second week in May.

This includes all those over 50 years old and any adult considered extremely vulnerable. These groups will be invited to receive the second dose approximately 12 weeks later.

By mid-July, it’s expected that 98 percent of those most likely to die from coronavirus should have the greatest amount of immunity.

What impact has coronavirus had on pubs in Scotland?

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In the first three months of lockdown in 2020, the UK hospitality industry shrunk by 23 percent and 85 percent of the workforce was furloughed.

Research by Statistica suggests that pubs across the UK lost 44 percent of profit in March 2020 - in comparison to the same period in 2019. This rose significantly in August when lockdown eased, to a loss of only 10 percent.

However, this soon came to an end due to a sharp rise in Covid cases.

Pubs and restaurants across the central belt - including Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee - were all placed under a strict 6pm curfew, and a ban on sales of alcohol in licenced premises in some areas.

With the closure of all pubs and a ban on drinking takeaway beverages outdoors, it is expected that loss of profit will now be upwards of 90 percent.

The same could be said for restaurants, which suffered a 63 percent drop in sales in March 2020, when restrictions were much the same as they are currently.

As of December 2020, 279,000 jobs had been lost in the hospitality industry across the UK.

What support is available for the hospitality industry?

A sharp rise in profits seen in August and September can be attributed to the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, introduced by UK chancellor Rishi Sunak.

However, there has been some longer term support, such as the furlough scheme, which has paid the wages of thousands of workers across the UK, to the tune of £46.4m (December 2020).

The hospitality sector will not be required to pay business tax for the tax year of 2020-2021.

There are also bounceback loans, future funds and a business interruption loan scheme.

Rishi Sunak announced a further one-off payment for large businesses impacted by lockdown, which will support them until April.

You can view the financial support offered by the UK Government on its website.

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