A RESTAURANT owner says he has lost £1.25m and 15 staff due to lockdown as he slammed the government's coronavirus restrictions exit plan.

Gregg McLeod, who has run the Cafe Continental in Gourock for the last six years, says the business would have gone under without grants and furlough from the UK Government.

He has criticised restrictions which apply to the re-opening date of April 26 and will prevent the premises from serving alcohol indoors.

Mr McLeod says he will not re-open until he can sell alcohol indoors - which won't be until May 17.

He told the Telegraph: "We've lost over a million in turnover - one and a quarter million.

"These new restrictions are a total waste of time.

"By the time six weeks has passed most of the population will have been immunised.

"I don't see the difference of selling alcohol outside to 10pm and not allowing it inside and closing at 8pm.

"I would ask the First Minister to show us the figures to support these restrictions."

Mr McLeod says he's had to let go of 15 members of staff during the shutdown.

The remaining 22 of the Cafe's employees are on furlough, with the business having to cover national insurance, pension contributions and holiday pay.

This costs around £4,000 a month.

Mr McLeod said: "We're in the situation that if it wasn't for the grants and furlough from the UK Government, our business would have gone down the tubes."

A pub at the other end of town is also feeling the pinch.

Brett Clough, who has run the Cardwell Bar in Gourock since 2006, says he had to let around half of his workforce go due to the prolonged lockdown.

He told the Tele: "We had 22 staff and now we have 10.

"We've lost tens of thousands in turnover and all the stock will be out of date."

Asked about the indoor booze ban, he said: "It is like trying to open with one hand tied behind your back.

"You can come inside for food but no alcohol.

"We have a few tables outside, but numbers there are going to be so limited."

Despite this Mr Clough plans to plough on and re-open next month.

He is refurbishing the frontage in time to welcome customers back, but admits he fears for the future.

Brett said: "It remains to be seen but I don't see how things will ever get back to what was normal.

"Pubs were in decline before Covid - the traditional pub where guys would stop for two or three pints on their way home is long gone.

"A lot of people might never be back in a pub again, they may be anxious if they are in a crowd.

"Initially when we re-opened after the spring lockdown there was a surge for two to three weeks and we had 70 per cent of turnover before Covid.

"Then it tailed off to 30 per cent, then we went into lockdown again.

"We've got to try, but I think we face an uncertain future."

The Scottish Government today defended its stance on the reopening of the hospitality trade.

A spokesperson said: “We want hospitality to get back to normal as soon as it is safely possible, but as the First Minister has set out we must move very carefully to ensure continued suppression of the virus.

"If we open up too much, too quickly then we risk a resurgence of the virus.

“The precise detail of any continued restrictions will depend on an assessment of the situation closer to the time and we will continue to engage with the various sectors, including hospitality, on the detail of the guidance to be supplied in advance of re-opening."

The government also highlighted the financial support it had extended to the trade.

They said: “We have long recognised the need to support a range of business sectors most impacted by restrictions.

"We have extended 100 per cent rates relief for all retail, leisure and hospitality premises for all of 2021-22 – this is more generous than the equivalent rates reliefs available in other UK nations.

"And last week the First Minister announced one-off restart grants of up to £19,500 for retail, hospital and leisure sectors, payable in April, again exceeding the level of awards approved by the UK Government.”