Wbg urges Glasgow hospitality operators to check their finances following fall in city centre footfall due to LEZ

With a recent survey by the Scottish Hospitality Group finding that more than two thirds of operators in Glasgow have seen footfall drop, with some 63% blaming the introduction of the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and poor public transport, Wbg, Accountants and Business Advisers, is urging bar and restaurant owners in Glasgow city centre to ensure they have up-to-date financial information to enable them to take the necessary action as soon as practicably possible rather than waiting till the year end or until cashflow runs out – by which time it may already be too late.

Catherine Livingstone, partner and head of food & drink at Wbg, said that the combination of LEZ, the lack of public transport at night, the cancellation of free parking on Sundays and the development of WFH and hybrid working post-Covid has discouraged many people from venturing into Glasgow city centre, which is noticeably quieter than it was pre-Covid, and persuading them to stay local instead.

“While, on the plus side, this summer saw the return of tour buses into Glasgow and the welcome return of tourists to city centre hotels and restaurants, the beneficial impact of that is likely insufficient to offset the detrimental impact of LEZ and poor public transport,” she said.

“As a result, some bar and restaurant owners in Glasgow are starting to question the viability of retaining a city centre outlet, which attracts higher business rates than a non-city centre outlet.”

Ms Livingstone suggests that for some operators it will be more economically appealing to relocate a city centre bar or restaurant to a busy suburb where many customers can walk to without having to concern themselves with LEZ or public transport at night.

“In order to be able to make that decision, operators need to calculate what impact LEZ has had on their bottom line and what impact it’s likely to have going forward,” she said.

“What are their financial projections? Will they still be viable in the context of LEZ and other factors reducing the number of people coming into the city centre?

“The answer might well be that a non-city centre location would make more financial sense. Within this context, the key to survival for hospitality sector operators is to know where they are financially at all times.”

A judicial review into LEZ is set to take place on 17 October. Many bar and restaurant owners in Glasgow will be marking that date in their diary and deciding whether to relocate to the suburbs or stay in a quieter city centre depending on the outcome.

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