Ardnamurchan nears end of social distancing revamp

Operator Neil Douglas removed one third of the venue’s seating areas to facilitate social distancing

Owners of Ardnamurchan Neil and Julie Douglas

A GLASGOW operator hopes his venue will be one of the first to reopen as he nears the end of an extensive renovation project.

Neil Douglas of Ardnamurchan, who opened the venue in 2017 following a £430,000 investment with Heineken-owned pub company Star Pubs and Bars, began work on the Hope Street premises in early April and has since removed one third of the venue’s seating areas to enable social distancing and create 21 private dining and drinking spaces – which are separated by screens – for 68 covers. He has also fitted perspex screens to allow customers to be served at the bar.

A one-way system will be put in place for customers and measures such as infrared taps and toilet flushes have been installed in the toilets. Douglas, who also leases Edinburgh pub Basils from Star Pubs, completed the majority of the manual labour himself and said that despite delays with the delivery of perspex screens, the Ardnamurchan project is now nearing completion.

Douglas has created 21 new private dining and drinking spaces

“Ardnamurchan was the venue we didn’t think was doable [to implement social distancing] in terms of the space we had and what we were going to have to do with it, but it’s given us a lot of walls to work with,” Douglas told SLTN.

“Just now we’re sitting at 68 covers down from 100 but if we get the rub of the green with the permission to use the outdoor space at our other venue across the street, Evoo, we go back up to 80 covers, so we’ve only lost 20% at that point.”

“The painters and decorators are not quite finished yet, and we’ve still got the outside to do; the floor was completed in a day and I also fitted the steelwork and perspex myself. If you look at what it would cost to do it through a company it could be quite restrictive, but if you’re prepared to get your hands dirty it pays off – we would have finished the job four weeks ago but there was a delay in getting the perspex so it took five weeks to be delivered.

Perspex screens will allow customers to be served at the bar

“The only section we haven’t developed is the snug area in case there is an obligation to queue people who are going to the toilet if we have to limit toilet use. We don’t want to keep people in their seats and we’d rather hold them in an area so we’re waiting to see what the guidelines say.

“About three weeks ago we had an RBS mentor, a health and safety executive, come and review what we’d done, and he gave us the reassurance and confidence to carry out work in our other units in a similar way. We thought the toilets were going to be an issue because of the corridor that leads to them, but the mentor told us there will always be an element of risk, and as long as you do as much as possible, you can use that as your marketing and selling point.”

Due to the size of the venue, Douglas has maintained a two metre social distance in his design but said he can alter the layout if it is reduced. But he said that his nearby Mediterranean restaurant, Evoo, on Cowcaddens Road – whose outside space Douglas hopes to reopen if an occasional licence is granted by Glasgow City Council – would benefit if social distancing regulations were reduced.

The perspex screens took five weeks to be delivered to the venue

Douglas said: “Because of Ardnamuchan’s size, the two-metre distance is still viable for us, and we’ve made the changes based on that distance, but if it drops to one metre, then we can alter things to suit. There are no issues in the kitchen either as one chef can be at the back cooking, and another can be at the front presenting – the dessert chef also works in a separate area altogether.

“For Evoo, however, a drop to one metre would be a benefit particularly for its outside space; if you’ve got to maintain two metres outside and a passing pavement you’ll need a lot of land before you have something that is fit for purpose.”

Ardnamurchan’s staff shift patterns have also been remodelled to avoid redundancies and to ensure the highest level of safety possible for each of his 17 staff members, all of whom have been furloughed.

Douglas said: “To avoid making any of our staff redundant, we split the team into an A team and a B team, both of which will work from Tuesday to Sunday on weekly rotations. The venue will also close every Monday for a deep clean. If we have furlough support for the week staff that are not working, it means I can pay the wages for when staff are working. It also means that staff who are working together are safer because there is less cross-contamination.”

Ardnamurchan is now accepting bookings on its website for dates commencing July 16.