By Scott Wright

SCOTTISH hospitality campaigners have revealed operators have been left nursing a £3.5 million bill because of the three-week “circuit breaker” imposed to suppress coronavirus in the central belt.

The newly-formed Scottish Hospitality Group, whose members include the Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group and Ayrshire bar firm Buzzworks, has released figures that it says show the cost to its members to keep their 200-plus establishments closed for the period.

The figures were released shortly before First Minister Nicola Sturgeon signalled that hospitality venues such as restaurants will be allowed to open from next week – providing they do not sell alcohol. Ms Sturgeon intimated that the central belt, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, would be placed into level three of Scotland’s new five-tier coronavirus lockdown system, which comes into effect on November 2.

According to the SHG, the grant support provided by the Scottish Government to assist the industry through the current three-week circuit breaker falls far short of the cost of keeping premises closed.

The group said it will cost its members £3.5 million to keep their venues shut for the period when factors such as fixed costs, stock loss and furlough charges are taken into account. At the same time, it notes, operators will receive £415,000 in Government support.

The survey found the average cost of shutting down a bar or restaurant is £2,425, with additional fixed costs, stock loss and furlough charges totalling £5,783 per week. With grant support of £693 per venue, SHG said its members will lose £5,089 per week, on top of the one-off shut down costs.

SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said the disparity illustrates “the lack of sector understanding and the critical need for Government engagement” to support a “broken industry”. Hospitality providers have repeatedly argued that scientific evidence does not support the case for shutting down the sector.