HOSPITALITY bosses have warned that 11 Scottish council areas being moved into level 4 lockdown restrictions for three weeks will lead to traders “seriously considering if their businesses have a future at all”.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian will be placed in level 4, the toughest set of rules, from Friday until December 11.

The restrictions will mean that pubs, restaurants and cafes will be forced to close their doors , while non-essential retail businesses will also have to close.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has warned that many businesses will be forced to permanently close.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Glasgow and 10 other areas put into lockdown

Managing director of the SLTA, Colin Wilkinson, said: “This is the worst possible news for the licensed hospitality industry and there will be many operators who will now be seriously considering if their businesses have a future at all – that’s how serious the situation is.

“Many operators in levels two and three areas have already taken the reluctant decision to close down their businesses as it is simply unviable to operate with the current restrictions on the sale of alcohol and the operating times that are currently in place.

"Even hotels and restaurants serving food feel defeated by these unnecessarily complex and ever-changing guidelines.”

He added: “Moving into level four suggests that the closing of pubs and bars in October in five health board areas, prior to the introduction of the tier system, has done little to bring down the rate of Covid-19 infections.

“And yet again, there has been no meaningful engagement with our industry and there has been no evidence to prove that the virus is being spread within the licensed hospitality sector.

“We reiterate that we support the goal of suppressing the virus – of course we do. 

“But we also reiterate that we are a sector in crisis with hundreds of businesses facing permanent closure and thousands of jobs hanging in the balance. Sadly, for some, the damage is already irreparable.”

An SLTA survey of 600 on-trade premises highlighted that within the pub and bar sector, 50,000 jobs could be lost. The trade body estimates that two-thirds of hospitality businesses could be mothballed or go under in the coming weeks.

More than 50 per cent of jobs in the pub and bar sector could also be lost which will have a particularly deep impact on the employment of young people as over 45 per cent of staff employed are under the age of 25.

Mr Wilkinson added: “Closing these businesses also brings additional immediate financial costs for operators with the cost of actually closing a small wet pub around £2,000, a medium food pub around £6,000, and a large pub between £8,000 and £10,000.

“There are also the ongoing costs while closed which fall far short of support grants currently in place.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland has warned the tightening of restrictions will hit smaller firms disproportionately hard.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “Today’s changes shut the doors of thousands of smaller Scottish firms at their busiest time of year, resulting in despair and anger amongst independent shopkeepers, publicans, restaurateurs, barbers and beauticians.

“Ministers must provide a cast iron guarantee to our small business community that they will be given an opportunity to trade normally ahead of Christmas, especially when many big businesses face few operating restrictions."  

He added: “The cards are now stacked against Scottish smaller businesses, and that’s why we’ve got to see people support their local firms as they grapple with these restrictions. That means buying vouchers in advance, seeking out local businesses online, and using firms in their community whenever they can.

“Scotland’s eventual recovery from this crisis will be reliant upon local businesses, but the pandemic has taken a disproportionate economic toll on neighbourhood firms. We’d ask Ministers to consider whether every measure is necessary, especially those hitting independent shops.”