A Glasgow nightclub owner has suggested some venues in the city are losing “between 50% and 75% of their most profitable trading hours” due to restrictions placed on the industry.
Donald MacLeod MBE, chairman of the Glasgow Licensing Forum who owns The Garage and Cathouse nightclubs in the city, has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with alternative options to “navigating a way forward out of the restrictions” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of the autonomous body, which is separate from Glasgow City Council, he has called for a last entry time to replace the current 10pm curfew as well as highlighting issues with turning off music in such venues.
In the letter, he writes: “The 10pm terminal hour means that many premises are losing between 50% and 75% of their most profitable trading hours which is simply not sustainable.
“As an alternative, the forum believes that consideration should be given to a curfew where customers cannot enter new premises beyond a certain time, say 10pm, leaving the terminal hour subject to the terms of the premises licence.
“This would not only reduce concentrations of people queuing for and using public transport but would also offer a lifeline to the taxi and private hire car trade as well as our hotel industry, who have all been badly hit by the lack of any night-time economy in the city.”
Music was turned off in pubs and bars in order to make sure people were not speaking loudly over the sounds and risking spreading or catching Covid-19.
Mr MacLeod says: “Many licensed trade representatives have commented that they believe the ban to be counter-productive, with customers more inclined to lean in closely to speak so as not to be overheard given the lack of any background noise.
“The forum would like to see consideration being given to allowing the playing of background music and TV sound once again, given the wide range of Covid-safety measures already implemented within licensed premises.”
On Friday, another appeal was made by the Glasgow Licensing Board, who asked the Scottish Government “to allow licensed premises that serve meals to the public to remain open, even without serving alcohol”.
Since October 9, bars and licensed restaurants in five health board areas including Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been forced to close for all but takeaways.
Although initially due to end on October 25, the restrictions were extended until the new five-level system comes into effect on Monday once approved at Holyrood.
Mr MacLeod also raised concerns over the lack of consideration for nightclubs – even at the lowest level of restrictions.
He said: “It has been noted with great concern that even under level 0, nightclubs will remain closed.
“It is hugely worrying that no plan appears to be in place for their reopening when level 0 may be seen by many as a return to ‘normality’.”
It was announced on Tuesday that one-off grants of up to £50,000 will be available to nightclubs through the Covid-19 Contingency Fund.
Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “We know that nightclubs and soft play centres have been particularly badly hit by this pandemic – unlike the majority of businesses, they have not been allowed to open since March.
“These grants take account of those exceptional circumstances and will provide a boost as we continue to tackle the virus.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Scotland’s hospitality industry has faced unimaginable challenges this year and we have worked hard to provide critical support to the industry.
“No-one wants the restrictions in place a moment longer than needed and they are kept under review.
“We discussed the proposed protections in the five-level framework with the hospitality sector ahead of today’s debate and will continue to consider feedback and all the available evidence is supporting the industry in safely operating.”