Landlords across Tayside and Fife have been left devastated after plans to reopen beer gardens across the region were shelved for at least two more weeks.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon dashed the hopes of punters on Thursday after announcing a decision on the reopening of outdoor spaces at pubs, bars and restaurants will not be made for another fortnight.
However Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is seeking further scientific guidance amid fears beer gardens “can be hotspots for transmission” of Covid-19.
Graham Bucknall, owner of the Ship Inn at Elie – which is home to a popular beer garden – has hit out at the Scottish Government for not giving hospitality workers any indication that the decision would be put on hold.
He said staff at the seaside pub were due to come out of furlough from Friday, with the pub “looking immaculate” in readiness to welcome customers back.
Mr Bucknall added: “We had every expectation we’d be getting a go-ahead. If they were thinking this, then they knew that a few days ago surely.
“Why does she take us to the three-week end point to tell us they are not ready?
“They had every opportunity to say earlier in the week, ‘we are feeling less optimistic’, and not get our hopes up. That would have been a really useful message to give.
“It fails to recognise the huge efforts people in the hospitality industry have gone through in the last few weeks. It has made life very difficult.
“It will mean yet more pubs will be forced to close.”
He said the current period, which includes the Father’s Day weekend, was a “pretty important few weeks” for his businesses.
The Ship Inn employs 31 members of staff.
Mr Bucknall added: “My staff were all ready to come back from furlough. It is more uncertainty for them.
“We have lot of disappointed customers.”
Dundee bar staff ‘gutted’
Andrew Mitchell – co-owner of the Kilted Kangaroo in Roseangle, Dundee – added: “We’re obviously gutted due to all the hard work by the team, but that will still be there in a few weeks too when we are allowed to open.
“Safety is paramount and if the First Minister’s advisers don’t deem it safe then we just wait till they do.
“As phase two now seems to have been broken down into ‘sub phases’ it is going to add to confusion, there needs to be a clearer road map to reopening our industry.
“Bars and restaurants hold thousands of pounds worth of perishable stock, that you simply cant just get over night so hopefully we are all given a better indication of dates soon.”
He said the restaurant has put in place an “array of measures” in the wake of the pandemic including hand gel pillars, screens, masks and face-shields. Tables have been laid out to comply with social distancing, with additional toilets ordered.
Kate Fraser, manager of The Ambassador Bar on Clepington Road in Dundee, said that she, her staff and their customers have been left “gutted” by the decision.
She added: “People are paying hundreds of pounds to get open. We’ve spent near £3000 on beer. Today we thought everybody would be on a high.
“The staff were totally gutted. It is all totally gutting to be honest.
“Everybody was geared up for it definitely going ahead. Nothing was even mentioned.
“I know the reason they might be doing it. It is what it is and there is nothing we can do about it.”
The Ambassador will be continuing its food home deliveries throughout the lockdown.
Mixed emotions in Perth
In Perth, the owner of one of the pubs contacted by The Courier said he was “too angry” to comment, saying “the life had been sucked out” of him following the announcement.
However another said the lack of guidance in recent days pointed towards beer gardens remaining shut.
Mike Jordan, owner of The Bank which can fit up to 1,300 in its outside area, said: “No-one had told me anything concrete.
“I know some other pubs thought they would get open straight away but I just didn’t see how if we didn’t have any guidance.”
Despite not knowing when The Bank will reopen, Mike has been working to get his beer garden ready for post-lockdown life by making use of his car park.
He said: “Usually we could have 1,300 but we’ll start off with about 200 to stay safe.
“It’s probably going to be a pre-book system, otherwise we’re going to have people ending up in a huge queue at the door.
“We’ve been working with the police, the licencing board and environmental health on this and we’ll have toilets outside which we are waiting to put in.”
At the Scone Arms, staff said they had been working “flat out” to open this weekend but understood the decision.
A spokesperson for the pub said: “Whilst obviously disappointed by the decision we agree pubs can’t open until the experts say it’s safe.”
Perth Chamber of Commerce bosses warned the move would have a negative impact on the industry.
Vicki Unite, chief executive of the chamber said: “Many of our businesses are in the tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors and they will be disappointed they can’t now open outdoor areas – this further loss of potential income will be sorely felt.
“With health being the priority, but knowing how it will impact many business models negatively, we hope that the review of the facts around the 2m physical distancing will offer the opportunity for this to be reduced.”
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