TWO-HUNDRED hospitality jobs in the city centre are at risk due to the pandemic as business owners in the area find themselves in a “unique” situation. 

Fifteen cafe and restaurant owners have united to address a loophole in the Scottish Government’s emergency grants scheme during the coronavirus outbreak.

While the Stay Home, Stay Safe message has persisted since March in a bid to prevent the transmission of the virus, city centres across Scotland have been left deserted. 

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The 15 city centre businesses – who have 27 units in the area – have outlined a struggle they face as they try to innovate amid the pandemic.

Sofie Gillespie, who owns Where The Monkey Sleeps and who is spearheading the campaign, said: “The Scottish Government advice at the moment is to support your local businesses and work from home. The reality for us is that the vast majority of our customer-base is workers in the city centre.

“We’ve tried to think about this and I thought about how we could reopen without bleeding money. I got in touch with other small businesses in the area to see if there was something I was missing.”

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Alongside Where The Monkey Sleeps, Cafe Wander, Feist, Jules, Locavore, Operatta Café, Paninis, Piece, Primal Roast, Riverhill Cafe, Smile, Sprigg, Toast and Spitfire Espresso all find themselves facing the same difficulty.

Collectively, the 15 hospitality businesses have served the city centre community for a total of 127 years.

Sofie added: “We’re all looking and seeing a similar picture – which is reassuring, but the picture we’re looking at is pretty bleak. The picture is, footfall in town has dramatically fallen.

“Out of our 15 businesses, there are three currently open. They are reporting only 15 to 25 per cent of normal sales. That just isn’t sustainable.

“We are in a unique position. While similar residential businesses have adapted new methods to sustain themselves, this isn’t an option we can take.

“Of course, we’ve looked at reopening but it just isn’t feasible.”

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Sofie, who has had to furlough 16 members of staff, has received one emergency grant from the Scottish Government – but says the money doesn’t come close to covering overhead costs.

She said: “We are eligible for £25,000 for our units. Our biggest overhead is rent and the reality is that this grant doesn’t even scratch the surface really. That’s not to say that it’s insignificant because it is definitely not.

“It is significant and the government is in a very difficult position whereby there really is not one industry that isn’t affected by the pandemic.

“With this responsibility I have for the people I work with, I keep looking for things that I can do to preserve these jobs.”

Last week, we reported that Blythswood and Grand Central Hotel chiefs were looking to make nearly 400 employees redundant due to the coronavirus crisis.

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Sofie said: “I have been reading up about big companies having to lay off nearly one hundred members of staff. There are just not going to be jobs in the hospitality sector.

“We need to draw attention to this problem. If I’m going to make my staff redundant, I need to be able to look them in the eye and tell them I’ve done absolutely everything I could to fight for their jobs.

“There needs to be some sort of recognition and support given to city centre businesses, given the fact that all government advice has been to stay at home.

“In encouraging people to work from home and stay local, there is a casualty in that.”

This comes after the Scottish Licensed Trade Association warned 100,000 jobs could be lost in the hospitality sector if businesses aren’t able to reopen soon.

Glasgow Conservative group leader and councillor Thomas Kerr said: “In Glasgow and across Scotland we need to be looking for innovative ways to support businesses as we emerge from lockdown. 

“That includes taking inspiration from initiatives elsewhere, like Belfast City Council that has introduced a temporary applications process for ‘Pavement Cafes’ and also waived the usual application fees. 

“We’re lucky that this city has plenty of scope for schemes like this and I’ll be pushing the council’s administration hard to ensure these kind of ideas get a fair hearing.

“It’s devastating to hear that 100,000 jobs in Scotland are on the line in the hospitality industry. Those are jobs and livelihoods that underpin Glasgow’s economy. 

“We’re already behind our peers elsewhere in the UK and businesses are urgently looking for some reassurance from the Scottish Government that they have not been forgotten.

“I’d like to hear from the leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, on how she is using her influence to fight for businesses in this city because thus far her silence on this issue has been deafening.”

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Responding to the concerns, a Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The council has put economic and social recovery at the heart of its plans for the next two years – with the leader chairing an expert Economic Recovery Group, which has already made wide-ranging proposals to Ministers and the Scottish Government’s National Advisory Group of Economic Recovery.

“One of the first steps we have taken is to establish a City Services team, which has been warmly welcomed by Glasgow businesses through the Chamber of Commerce, which will help firms navigate everything from licences and permits to the latest public health advice as they make plans to re-open. 

“At the same time, we are investing millions in changes to our streets to make it easier for the workforce and customers to travel safely.

“Opposition group leaders have been regularly briefed on all of this work.

“The leader of the council has also made it clear that she supports calls for governments at Westminster and Holyrood to tailor ongoing support to the needs of different sectors – and has made specific representations to government on behalf of the city’s Night Time Economy Commission.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Public health restrictions have been essential to stem the spread of Covid-19 but we do not underestimate the impact this has had on Scotland’s businesses.

“That’s why the Scottish Government has responded quickly and has firmly supported businesses with more than £2.3 billion of response support and with a Restart the Economy capital stimulus package of £230 million.

“We absolutely recognise the importance of hospitality sector jobs and are urging the UK Government to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – and to reduce VAT. Failure by the UK Government to do so could result in additional job losses. We must not allow that to happen.”