YOU could have forgiven staff at Renfrewshire’s pubs and restaurants if they felt in need of a stiff drink as they pulled the shutters down last week.

Scores of businesses in local towns and villages have been forced into temporary hibernation by tough new lockdown rules imposed by the Scottish Government.

Licensed premises were ordered to close their doors at 6pm on Friday, October 9, and remain shut for 16 days as part of a ‘circuit breaker’ policy that aims to halt the spread of coronavirus.

A number of traders admit it will be a struggle to survive the latest restrictions, with the situation already at breaking point.

There are also fears that pubs and restaurants that are able to reopen in 12 days’ time will be doomed if similar rules are in place during the festive period.

The Gazette: Trattoria Roma, in Johnstone town centreTrattoria Roma, in Johnstone town centre

Indrit Mataj, who owns the Trattoria Roma, in Johnstone, said: “Like most owners, I am looking to our December trade to make up for the losses of earlier in the year and set us up for 2021.

“If we have another lockdown, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, then it could be curtains for us.

“We suffered financially during the first lockdown in March and this one won’t be any different.

“Our message to Nicola Sturgeon is that we are surviving but don’t try to close us down at Christmas.”

Leo Pierotti, owner of the Piccolo Mondo and Luna Rossa eateries, both in Renfrew, is shocked and baffled by the new restrictions.

He says his businesses have only survived the pandemic through the introduction of takeaway meals and home deliveries.

Mr Pierotti added: “I don’t see any real logic or science behind this two-week closure.

“We have only survived up to now because of the support of the local community, who have been great since we reopened in July.

“It’s not fair that the cafes can remain open and serve food and soft drinks during the day but we can’t.”

The Gazette: Piccolo Mondo can only sell takeaway foodPiccolo Mondo can only sell takeaway food

Last week, Ms Sturgeon said the new lockdown is needed to bring Covid-19 back under control, with licensed premises identified as one of the key spreaders of the virus.

But Mr Pierotti added: “I don’t believe there is enough scientific evidence to show that is the case.

“If these restrictions are still ongoing in a couple of months’ time, then a lot of people will throw in the towel.

“If we’re not allowed to trade at Christmas, that could be the end of a lot of businesses.

“Many small bars have remained closed since March and more could follow.”

Although pubs and restaurants have been forced to close temporarily, cafes which don’t serve alcohol can stay open until 6pm.

Further measures impacting Renfrewshire that will remain in place until October 25 include a ban on contact sports, such as football, for those aged 18 and over, with the exception of professional sports.

Indoor group exercise activities are no longer allowed but gyms can remain open for individual exercise.

The likes of snooker halls and bingo halls have also been closed.

The Gazette: Staff at Globe Bingo, in Johnstone, have had to close the doors as part of the lockdownStaff at Globe Bingo, in Johnstone, have had to close the doors as part of the lockdown

Johnstone bingo hall owner Richard Laciok said his business had just been getting back on its feet after being allowed to reopen in late August.

Now customers won’t be able to return to New Globe Bingo, in the town’s High Street, for another 12 days.

Mr Laciok said: “The news of a second lockdown came as a bombshell. It’s potentially devastating for our business.

“We are following all of the government’s guidelines but we are still being penalised.

“I would be concerned by a further lockdown in the run-up to Christmas. We rely on Christmas – it’s a busy time for us.”

Kenny Blair, managing director of Buzzworks, which operates The Coach House pub-restaurant in Bridge of Weir, has concerns the latest restrictions will be extended beyond October 25.

He also claimed the hospitality sector is being made a “scapegoat” by the Scottish Government for a recent rise in coronavirus cases.

Mr Blair added: “Many businesses in hospitality are already substantially weakened and this may be the final straw for them.

“We are hoping to reopen after 16 days but, if that’s not the case, we will have to make some serious decisions about our workforce.

“Christmas is already looking uncertain. It is a key trading period and it very often makes up for the quieter months.

“If there are further restrictions, it will severely impact on the finances of every restaurant.”

The Scottish Government has promised £40million of funding to help the hospitality sector in the wake of the tighter lockdown rules, which affect pubs and restaurants in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Ayrshire and Arran, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley and Lothian health board areas.

There will be one-off grants of up to £3,000 for businesses forced to close by the regulations, as well as payments of up to £1,500 for businesses that remain open but are directly impacted, such as suppliers.

Ms Sturgeon said she has had to make “unavoidable decisions” to try to get the virus under control.

“We’re trying to do it as best we can,” she added. “But don’t forget why we’re doing it – because, if we don’t make these tough decisions, this virus will run unchecked, more people will die.”