South Ayrshire bars and restaurants are battling the impact of inflation and Covid by looking at new avenues to keep trading after a ‘positive’ festive period.

On Thursday the local licensing board heard how the generally quiet January has become far busier in 2023 as businesses looked towards making changes to keep afloat.

Licensing standards officer Catrina Andrew outlined how the under-pressure hospitality sector had performed over Christmas and New Year.

And she said that the licensing department at the council had been far busier than normal, with businesses enquiring about changes they can make to ensure they are viable.

Thursday’s meeting also saw some tangible evidence of this, as the board approved applications from Heads of Ayr Caravan Park, Willie Wastle’s in Ayr and Troon Wellbeck Golf Club.

Representatives from all three made reference to the need to change amid the cost of living crisis as they sought approval for proposals they see as vital to mitigating the financial crisis.

Robert Honeyman, representing the Heads of Ayr Caravan Park, requested permission to sell alcohol to park guests at the on-site retail shop between 11am and 10pm daily.

He explained there had been a move away from park guests using the on-site bar to purchasing off-sales and the use of the shop would allow residents to buy alcohol while buying other items in the store.

Mhairi Kay of Willie Wastle’s in New Bridge Street told the board that their energy costs had risen fourfold, and that screens originally intended to aid Covid compliance two years ago had become an integral part of their efforts to reduce costs amid the energy crisis.

She continued: “The huge increase in running costs and our location in town means we have to make major changes to our business.

“We are now closed every Monday to reduce electricity and gas.”

She added that they closed early on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10pm, and at 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

Ms Kay continued: “To maximise our trading during current opening hours, we would like to sell alcohol when we open for breakfast at 9am.”

Troon Wellbeck Golf Club also sought to make changes to maximise their income potential by allowing off sales from 10am rather than 11am.

They also sought a formal off sales licence which would be in place from 10am to 10pm daily.

Their representative, Brian Dunlop, told the board that the application was a result of the advice from Ms Andrew, and that the application would allow the club to expand the types of events that could be held there.

Cllr William Grant, the licensing board's chair, said he sympathised with the problems faced by the hospitality industry and the need to give applicants "the best opportunity to bring people into their premises.”

All three applications were approved.

In her outline of the area's festive trading situation, Ms Andrew said: ”In contrast to previous two years, the trade operated in full in South Ayrshire.

“The trade was generally well supported, which is obviously such a big change with what has happened over the previous two years.

“Local premises reported that Christmas went well but, in contrast, New Year was extremely busy.”

However, she said that many pubs had not made use of the later opening available during the festive period, largely as a result of staffing, with many employees not wishing to work later.

A shortage of stewards meant that premises that would have opened later, requiring these staff, could not take advantage.

Ms Andrew also said that businesses had booked a range of entertainment to attract customers, but were unsure whether this had been profitable.