By Scott Wright

DRINKS giant Diageo has unveiled a £4 million package to help the hospitality sector in Scotland bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.

The Guinness and Johnnie Walker maker has pledged to help operators meet the cost of physical equipment needed to reopen, as part of a $100m programme focused on hospitality centres around the world. Support in the UK will include initial funding for hygiene kits with permanent sanitiser-dispenser units, medical-grade sanitiser and personal protection equipment, though the cash may be spent on other equipment traders need as they emerge from lockdown. The investment has been unveiled the day after the UK Government paved the way for the hospitality sector to reopen in England on July 4, and revised down the social distancing guidelines from two metres to one.

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In Scotland, the hospitality trade continues to await the green light from the Scottish Government to open beer gardens and outdoor areas, after the First Minister delayed the move last week. Nicola Sturgeon disappointed operators by commissioning further scientific work into the transmission risk, and said she would provide an update on those investigations on July 2. She told MSPs beer gardens could still reopen within phase two of Scotland’s route map out of lockdown.

Diageo said it hatched the Raising the Bar programme after surveying bar owners around the world to identify the support they needed to reopen after lockdown. The company said it would help pubs and bars establish partnerships with online reservation and cashless systems, and with mobile bars and outdoor equipment.

Diageo chief Ivan Menezes said: “Pubs and bars sit at the heart of every community. We have launched Raising the Bar as so many outlets have been impacted by this crisis and badly need help to open their doors again. We are calling on governments around the world to provide long-term recovery packages to help the hospitality sector. These businesses play an essential role in bringing people together to socialise and celebrate – something that we have all missed so much during this terrible crisis – and sustain hundreds of millions of jobs, which provide a first foot on the employment ladder for young people.”

Pub giants Greene King and Star Pubs and Bars, a division of Heineken, are also helping tenants prepare to reopen.