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Closing time? Region’s pub owners react to new restrictions

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By Euan Maxwell
Closing time? Region's pub owners react to new restrictions

PUBS and restaurants around Dumfries and Galloway have hit back against tightened restrictions in the hospitality sector due to come into effect from tonight.

Announced by Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday, changes will see a prohibition on serving alcohol indoors, with customers to be seated inside no later than 6 pm, and beer gardens allowed to open serving alcohol until 10 pm for the next 16 days.

Anticipating huge losses as a result, several bars in the region have announced they will close up while new measures are in place.

Steven Ceates, boss of The Shed in Annan, called the announcement “just another nail in the coffin.”

He said: “It’ll have a devastating effect on a dying trade, it’s disappointing — things were getting phased back in, we were trading fairly positively to be honest, then this comes along – it’s not the best.”

Charmaine Kerr, landlady of The Blue Bell in Annan, has taken the decision to close her pub whilst the new restrictions are in place, saying she was “very disappointed” upon hearing about the new measures.

“We’ve decided to close until the 26th. It would cost too much to stay open, and we’re on a downturn already and since they changed to rule of six and mask-wearing indoors we’ve seen about a 30 per cent decrease, so to be just sending people outside it wouldn’t be viable.”

The Buck Inn, Annan

A second Annan bar, Buck Inn, have also announced they will close their doors for two weeks. Landlady Sharon Willacy last night said: “She might as well close us all. You can’t run a pub without being able to serve alcohol, so we’re shutting down.

“It won’t be the final straw for us, we’ll fight through it as we have no staff – but if you have staff on, it’s going to be extremely, extremely difficult.”

It was the same decision at The Lantern on St Michael’s Street, Dumfries, who said they are being forced to shut as they have no outside space, adding: “Good luck to all those in the hospitality trade that are also being forced to close and to those that are having to try and survive with even tighter restrictions.”

Steven Montgomery, owner of Dumfries’ Jolly Harvester, described the current situation in the industry as “death by a thousand cuts”.

“Depressed, devastated, shocked,” was his reaction to the news, adding: “We (the Scottish Hospitality Group) served 1.8 million customers from the 15th of July until the 30th of September and had 17 confirmed cases, so as far as our position is we are doing every single thing – and more – the Scottish Government has asked us to do.”

Montgomery, who also owns the Townhead Hotel in Lockerbie, warned of redundancies in the sector and added: “The customers who are coming in now are trusting us because we know that we’re safe. All this has done now is put people’s jobs at risk.”

At Cum-Ye-In in Dalbeattie, landlady Julie Clanahan said she was “absolutely disgusted” upon hearing about the new measures, adding: “We’ve done everything we’ve been asked to do and we’re still being punished.

“With the weather, it’s not just as if it’s summer months – it’s winter, nobody’s going to come out to sit in the cold and a lot of our clientele are older and it’s not going to work for us.

“She (Nicola Sturgeon) is not doing us any favours. We’re really struggling just now and with these added restrictions, I honestly don’t know how we’re going to come out the other end.”

The team at The Bank in Dumfries posted on Facebook that they are closing until October 27 because it would not be cost effective to stay open under the new guidelines.

Greens Sports Bar will stay open but advised customers to bring a blanket for the beer garden and to remember to socially distance.

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