COVID safety in pubs study blasted
Uni report branded‘insulting’by hospitality sector
Findings from a Stirling University study that indicates pubs pose a significant risk of spreading COVID have been labelled“insulting” to the local industry.
The research raised doubts over whether pub operators can effectively and consistently prevent coronavirus transmission.
According to the study, researchers observed risks in 29 licensed premises between May and August last year for up to two hours while posing as customers.
The study notes that venues had made physical and operational modifications on reopening, however, researchers found that practices were variable and a number of incidents of “greater concern” were observed – including close physical interaction between customers and staff, which frequently involved alcohol intoxication and were rarely effectively stopped by staff.
The study – published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs – will inform governments, public health experts, and policy makers in the UK and other countries as they consider the impact of the pandemic on hospitality and the risks of lifting restrictions.
The university has since come in for scathing criticism from the hospitality industry, with the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) claiming the research was at odds with UK-wide surveys and was “flawed”.
Kayleigh Keith, who co-owns The Tower gastro pub in Crieff as well as Nicky-Tams bar in Stirling with partner Craig, feels the study was “insulting” to the hospitality industry.
“It was also an insult to research standards,” she said.
“They only had 29 pubs sampled and only in the Stirling area in what is a small sample base.
“It is careless to put that out in to the public to say that, when the public are already sceptical about going out as it is.
“The amount of money spent on the industry to keep customers safe [is high] and the study will make people think that rules were not being adhered to.
“Pubs are more safe than going in to someone’s house, where there are no safety standards set and people let their guard down.
“The research passed by what the hospitality industry has done to help make it as safe for people as possible.”
Kayleigh also pointed out that while the study took place from May to August 2020, pubs only reopened for outdoor service on July 15, meaning studies during the live working environment only lasted around six weeks.
She added: “There was also the Eat Out to Help Out scheme that came in August which was pushed by the government.
“So it was us that had to manage with that massive influx of people who were encouraged to eat out.”
Scott Findlay, owner of the Cherrybank Inn in Perth, added: “We have spent a fortune to progress the business in recent years and also to keep it safe for everybody. We [the hospitality industry] were the only people that were tracking and tracing - but big shops and supermarkets were not.
“We always knew when there was a case straight away.
“We have spent a high level of money on a new beer garden and we went through a flood as well last year.
“We are just wanting to reopen again at some point and make it safe for people.”