Inverness taxi firms hit by latest Covid-19 regulations imposed on the Highland hospitality trade
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Inverness taxi firms are being hit by new tighter coronavirus restrictions imposed on the hospitality industry.
Several city centre pubs have temporarily closed their doors after the Scottish Government said pubs, bars and restaurants could only serve food and non-alcoholic drinks indoors between 6am and 6pm. Alcohol can be served outside licensed premises, but only until 10pm.
Earlier this week Tony Mackay, an Inverness-based economist, made a bleak prediction that hundreds of jobs could be lost in the city’s hospitality industry following the introduction of the tougher rules.
Taxi drivers are heavily reliant on the city’s night-time economy as they help to get people from their homes to the city centre’s bars and restaurants and back.
Gavin Johnston, the managing director of Inverness Taxis, said while things had been going well through the summer, there had been a drop in trade once the latest restrictions were introduced.
He said drivers had cut their hours or even stopped working – and he was aware of others who were thinking of doing the same because it was not economically viable.
He added: “Straight away there was a noticeable decline in the movement of people.”
Mr Johnston has also had to cut hours for office staff.
He said initiatives such as the Eat Out To Help Out scheme in August had helped to boost trade.
He added: “Things had picked up after the lockdown, as people were moving around, and Sundays became very busy.”
Mr Johnston said he was concerned if a ban on drinking alcohol indoors was here for the long term. He said: “If they don’t open up hospitality, the whole taxi industry is going to be massively affected.
“We are going to have to see what happens after October 25. If there’s another lockdown, drivers won’t be working because people won’t be moving about.”
Andrew MacDonald, the former chairman of the Inverness Taxi Alliance, and who runs Caley Taxis and Black Mercedes, agreed tighter restrictions were having a noticeable effect on trade.
He said drivers who normally worked at night were working days instead and added: “The pickings are lean enough and that will probably create something close to saturation. It will affect the trade.”
Mr MacDonald said he was not confident for trade in the short term and his other income stream – drivers giving guided tours to tourists – had also been hit.