Falkirk area snooker and pool club bosses say Covid levels system discriminates against industry

The owners of two Falkirk district snooker and pool clubs claim the Scottish Government’s coronavirus protection levels system discriminates against their businesses.

By Jonathon Reilly
Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 11:56 am
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 4:21 pm

Alan McCabe, who runs The Creamery Sports Bar in Bainsford, and Steven Allison of The Players Lounge in Falkirk, say they’ve been left behind the eight ball by Holyrood’s decision to keep their industry in Level 1, meaning the earliest such venues can reopen is June 7.

The former’s business has only been able to trade for 44 days in 13 months – and only because of its status as an eatery.

However, Mr Allison’s club has stayed shut since last March.

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Steven Allison, who runs The Players Lounge in Falkirk, is seeking an explanation from the Scottish Government on why snooker and pool halls can't open until June at the earliest. Picture: Michael Gillen.

To compound matters for both men, fellow indoor premises like bingo halls and comedy clubs were given clearance to welcome back customers from May 17, when Level 2 businesses can resume operating.

Having run snooker halls for 30 years, Mr McCabe was part of a protest at Holyrood over the decision to keep clubs like his closed.

The Camelon man said: “With venues such as casinos, bingo halls, amusement arcades and comedy clubs all opening on May 17, we’re astonished by the clear discrimination demonstrated towards our business by the Scottish Government.

“We’ve been told the problem is a lack of ventilation. We can understand that – we have no windows. The game has to be played in a lit indoor venue to see the table.

Alan McCabe, owner of The Creamery Sports Bar in Bainsford, is lobbying the Scottish Government over the extended closure of snooker and pool halls. Picture: Michael Gillen.

“But we were astonished to see places such as bingo halls and amusement arcades were suddenly in Level 2. We’d argue we’re no different from them.

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“The government’s agreed for comedy clubs to open on May 17 with alcohol. I’ve got ten snooker tables and I’m not allowed to use them, even though players are socially distanced.

“I was only looking for two players per table – but I can take the tables out, put 100 seats and a stage in and run a comedy club! I’m trying to work out how that makes sense.

“We’ve always believed the scientists are using an outdated approach to snooker clubs. In days gone by, they were seen as places of iniquity.

“Now we’re very much part of the family leisure industry.”

Mr Allison’s fear is he may have to let employees go if his hall can’t reopen soon.

He said: “There’s a high chance we could have to pay off staff.

“It’s possible we’ll not open back up. Bills are piling up.

“Why are we getting treated like this? I appreciate everything with Covid but why are golf clubhouses, boxing and indoor bowling open?”

Just as much of a worry is the impact the extended closure is having on members.

Mr McCabe explained: “On an average morning, we’d have 15 to 20 guys here, all over 50 or retired.

“The sticking plaster that held their social life together was going out to play snooker with their mates.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Strategic Framework Business Fund provided grants to businesses required to close by law or to significantly change their operations due to Covid-19 restrictions from November 2, 2020.

“Snooker halls were eligible and will have now received restart grants. Last month the First Minister announced grants of up to £19,500 for hospitality and leisure businesses would be paid in April to help businesses reopen progressively.”

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