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‘We can start to look towards real recovery’: Restaurateurs and publicans on hospitality restrictions clarification ahead of reopening

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Hospitality venues across Scotland will reopen on Monday April 26 after the first minister confirmed the country will move into Level 3 restrictions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced today that all areas of mainland Scotland would move down to Level 3 from Monday April 26, with a move to Level 2 expected on May 17 which will see the further reopening of hospitality.

It is then anticipated that the country will move into Level 1 on Monday June 17 before then moving to Level 0 in late June, and then more like normality in July.

Confirming that measures announced last month regarding restrictions on hospitality would come into force from April 26, she said: “It will be possible to collect takeaway food from indoors rather than having to collect it from a hatch or a window and hospitality venues, like cafes, pubs and restaurants can reopen, too.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“In outdoor settings, opening hours will be determined by local licensing laws, alcohol can be served outdoors from Monday and people will be able to meet in groups of up to six from six different households.

Risks of transmission

“The rules for hospitality indoors are different because the risks of transmission are greater indoors. Cafes, pubs and restaurants from Monday will be able to open indoors until 8 o’ clock in the evening, but not yet able to serve alcohol indoors.

“Up to six people will be allowed to meet indoors. However, they must come from a maximum of two households. Contrary to some suggestions you might have seen in the media on physical distancing in hospitality, our latest guidance on this has not changed from the guidance that was in place previously.

“We are also updating guidance on the collection of customer contact details and it makes clear that venues should take down customer contact details for all of their customers and not just the lead member of each group.”

Garry Watson

Garry Watson, chef proprietor at Gordon’s Restaurant with Rooms in Inverkeilor, is looking forward to opening, but says alcohol missing from a dining experience is “soulless”.

He said: “The first minister’s report today is optimistic yet fragile, especially for a small restaurant that has no outdoor facilities. The lack of alcohol sales makes opening a fine dining restaurant financially unviable.

“Gordon’s is a dining experience with food and wine, and unless both are together the experience is soulless.

Garry Watson.

“Our opening hours are dinner only in the evening from 7pm onwards, so the 8pm cut off time restriction is not suitable for my establishment. The one-metre distancing between people from different households sitting at a dining table causes problems too as we would need extra large tables, which is expensive and takes up more floor space, which means, therefore, fewer customers.

“It is good people can travel the country for tourism. However forward planning could be a problem if there are sudden outbreaks and areas are forced to close – last-minute cancellations would follow in restaurants, giving huge waste costs.

“I find it difficult that you can sit outside with a glass of wine with your meal, but not indoors, when we are going to be acting responsibly.”

Three Bellies Brae

Lindsey Wilson of the Three Bellies Brae pub in Kirriemuir said it was “exciting” to see things going in the right direction but, while they do serve food, they would be not be opening just yet.

She said: “From our perspective, there is no point in opening on April 26 purely to serve food inside as a pub. There are enough cafes in the town that will be trying to make a business without the pubs trying to cash in on that.

“We will wait until we can serve alcohol which is what we are – we are a pub that does food. We will therefore just wait until May 17.

Lindsey Wilson, of the Three Bellies Brae, also helps run the Kirrie Food Hub.

“The restrictions that are going to be in place then sound very similar to those that were in place when we were open at Christmas time, so it will just be a case of implementing the same sanitising procedures, taking the names, all that was in place. “

Lindsey, who also helps to run Kirrie Food Hub from part of her premises, added: “It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody. I am going to enjoy a month sitting in someone else’s beer garden drinking lots of beer before we open again.”

Kirriemuir Festival of Music and Song at The Three Bellies Brae in 2019. Those days returning may not be too far off now.

63 Tay Street

Meanwhile, Graeme Pallister, chef/proprietor of fine dining restaurant 63 Tay Street in Perth, has remained closed since October and, despite being allowed to reopen from Monday, won’t be opening his doors again until mid-May.

He said: “Of course, like all restaurateurs, I’m relieved that the situation as it is, is coming to an end. It has been incredibly stressful living from one announcement to the next, trying to forward plan without any real information on future hopes.

“For me, this is one of the most welcome parts of today’s announcement. Having dates, not just for the initial reopening, but also tentatively for Level 1 and Level 0, means we can start to look towards real recovery. Our industry is built on forward-bookings for special occasions and life’s big events, and this has been sadly lacking.

Graeme Pallister.

“However, I do feel that the caution with which we’re approaching the guidelines is misinformed. We don’t have outdoor space, and therefore must stick to the rules for indoors including the one-metre distancing which forced us to remove over 25% of our covers last summer.

“Couple this with the no-alcohol rule and it is easy to see why we have had to make the tough decision to remain closed until Level 2, on May 17. There is simply no way a small family business of our size can reopen without running at a loss until our wet sales come on stream; we need to hold off to protect the future of business and our team’s jobs.

“The biggest frustration for me is the six people from two households guidance. Looking at numbers – which I congratulate the Scottish Government on – I don’t understand why this particular rule remains in place. You can meet in up to six households in a private garden, and 50 people can come together for a wedding. And yet, three siblings cannot catch up for a meal and a glass of wine.

“The industry is on its knees and I think it will be for some time to come. There have been many restrictions over the past year that I feel have been undeserving. I know that all of my fellow restaurateurs are being really careful, we’re following rules and we are keeping people safe. I honestly believe we would continue to do this with a little more easing in place, and that that would make a huge difference to the longer-term recovery of Scottish food and drink.”

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