COVID-19

Covid 19 and the Future of Scotland’s Hospitality Industry

BY Robbie Hanratty (@RHanratty99)

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone in the world in many different ways. It is no secret that the hospitality industry has been severely impacted like no other.

From a full UK wide lockdown being announced in March to parts of the hospitality industry opening up again on a limited basis in July to a tier structure being put into place more recently. Uncertainty for the future has been a big concern for hospitality business owners. It was also recently published by the Office for National Statistics that hospitality has been the biggest industry hit with job loses between March and November 2020. There could be light at the end of the tunnel with a vaccine being rolled out but even then it may not be enough to save many hospitality owners livelihoods. Never mind being able to retain their staff much longer.

I spoke to Stephen O’Regan, who is regional manager of Kitty O’Sheas, an Irish pub that has premises in Glasgow and Edinburgh. He stated that ‘something major’ has to be done to help the industry survive long term. In normal times he said that each week during the festive period, Kitty’s would see well over a thousand people through the doors with bookings beginning as early as August. He said even if he was allowed to open his pubs again tomorrow, the Edinburgh pub (which has a late licence) would be unlikely to open until we are nearer “normal” times again.

When asked on his thoughts on a compulsory vaccine to visit pubs and operate at a full capacity with music, Stephen expressed that there will have to be something done to incentify people back out and about into town centres again. Although, he was unsure what will be done by the Scottish Government to bring back the buzz that customers get off of going out to hospitality venues like his.

This comes after 90-year-old grandmother, Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 jab following its clinical approval. A start of a mass roll out by the NHS. It has been suggested in parliament already that hospitality venues might be able to only let those who are covid vaccinated in.

Kitty’s was able to open for a short duration when the UK lockdown was initially loosened in July but with table service and no music allowed to be played. He explains that for an Irish bar like Kitty O Sheas; live music and even background music are often a key part of why people enjoy their experience in the bar.

This is what Kitty O’Sheas bars would normally look like during a busy period such as Christmas.
Stephen hopes to see scenes like this again by St Patrick’s Day in March 2021

Bar Manager of Tingle Shooter Bar in Glasgow, Charles, also told me that he does see some light at the end of the tunnel as well as giving the encouraging news that prices would probably stay the same when he can reopen the doors again to the public, just to entice people back out. As Tingle’s customers are predominantly students, the drink prices are often very reasonable for being at the heart of Scotland’s largest city. He said, “usually a drink such as a vodka mixer will just be a couple of pounds at most anyway in our bar and we will try keep it that way to get customers back in”.

He described his team at the bar in the heart of Glasgow’s city centre as his “second family” and said in normal times he would be working up to 60 hours a week. He touched on the fact that it’s been really hard for him to adapt to being furloughed on and off when he’s been so used to a routine working for the bar the past three years. Charles did state that since they are a very close group, he is in touch with his ten staff on a regular basis to keep them updated with what the future may hold and check in on their mental health.

At this time of year they would usually be incredibly busy, as lots of people like to use Tingle as a place to go on their Christmas nights out. “It’s just weird with everything closed and no opening in sight yet. There’s a whole lot of waiting around to see what happens until we move down some tiers to tier 2”, said Charles. Especially since he admits the fact that Tingle isn’t the biggest of places, so there isn’t much room to be socially distant at 2 metres never mind make any money. In addition, he points out that it would be too hard not to break any rules if they reopened whilst the current guidance is in place.

Charles followed this up when asked about how things may look like when he finally could open by saying that he is not a fan of table service as it takes away the human interaction and “banter” that people have whilst standing at the bar. He claims that it is just not the same and would inevitably make shifts a lot more boring than they should be.

Tingle Shooter Bar Mitchell Street | Glasgow Bar Reviews | DesignMyNight

The normal Christmas time queues outside Tingle. For more info: https://www.tinglebar.co.uk

With the Scottish government five tier system, places now functioning in tier one can serve alcohol without a ‘substantial’ meal, however can only remain open until 10.30pm. In tier two, you have to have a substantial meal to have an alcoholic drink then leave once you have had the meal. While in tier three some hospitality venues are permitted to open to serve food and non alcoholic drinks but only until 6pm. Then in tier four its near enough a full lockdown with all hospitality closed.

Often for hospitality venues like Tingle, the busiest time can be between 10.30pm and midnight before punters head to the clubs. So even with Glasgow moving into tier 3 from Friday 11th December, where hospitality premises can open again along as they are serving food; nightlife venues continue to be exiled from any long term plan.

What will the future bring? With Christmas looming and set to be very unfamiliar to what Scots are used to, will we see a return to somewhat normal come this time 2021? Fingers crossed for Stephen and Charles for better times ahead for the industry.

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