Two of Dundee’s most experienced landlords have voiced fears the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to dozens of pubs closing across the city.
Jimmy Marr, who owns eight popular bars and restaurants in the city, and Ronnie Bissell, owner of The Occidental Bar in Broughty Ferry, are also fearful the trade may never be the same again as landlords count the cost of three coronavirus lockdowns.
The latest restrictions put in place by the Scottish Government could last into spring – and pub owners in Dundee, who have only been able to operate a takeaway service since November, are fearing the worst.
Mr Marr, who owns popular haunts such as the Tay Bridge Bar, Harlequins, Rewind and Nicolls, said the pandemic is the worst crisis he has faced in 35 years.
He revealed he has been handed the keys to popular venue 172 at the Caird, after the tenant running the business could not afford to continue.
He said: “I have had to cope with a lot but I have never seen anything like this in my years in the business.
“We have come through minimum pricing, the smoking ban and the lower drink-driving limit but this is definitely the worst crisis and the biggest challenge we have faced.
“I think what we are going through now is going to change the face of the pub trade in Dundee for a very long time to come.
“There are bars that will never open again because they simply will not be able to afford to.
“Many of my tenant landlords can’t afford to keep going and many will not return.
“The tenant at The Caird has just handed the keys back to me because he can’t continue.
“I now face having to try to run it myself, find a new tenant or think of another way to continue. This is going to happen to many others.”
Mr Marr also raised fears about custom moving forward – and believes there could be fewer drinkers attending the city’s boozers once restrictions are eased.
He added: “You see more and more people building huts in their gardens for drinking and they are realising it is cheaper to drink at home, with some people getting in the habit of doing that.
“I had hoped we might have some semblance of normality by February or March but I’m not even sure now that we will be opening by April or May.
“It’s going to be really difficult to get back up and running.
“If pubs are to get going again landlords are going to need a lot more financial support from the government.”
Mr Bissell, who has run The Occidental for 15 years and has been in the pub trade for 30 years in total, admitted he feels “demoralised” by the current situation.
He said: “I’m starting to get really concerned about the trade as a whole
“I go in every day to check on things and wonder when I will be open again.
“For pubs like mine where we don’t do food it could be even longer as we would have to be in Level 1 to reopen.
“We put everything in place in the summer when we opened, including sanitisers, screens, table service, track and trace, one-way systems etc and found this worked very well and all our customers felt safe.”
‘Huge part of the local community’
He added: “My customers are keen to get back to the pub – for many, it is their only form of social contact and to meet others.
“Pubs are needing a lot more financial help to get through this crisis for them to reopen and be up and running again.
“Pubs like mine are a huge part of our local community.
“The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit industries and many may not reopen which would be extremely sad.”