Coronavirus: groups welcome reopening date but say there is still a ‘very long way to go’ to rebuild sector

A reduction of the two-metre physical distance and the need for clear and sensible guidance remain key concerns for hospitality sector


TRADE groups have widely welcomed the provisional reopening of outdoor spaces on July 6 announced by the Scottish Government yesterday (June 24) – but say measures such as the two-metre physical distance rule still pose a major threat to the sector.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the indicative date of July 6 and said the reopening of indoor pubs, bars and restaurants on July 15 would be “on a limited basis initially and subject to a number of conditions”. Sturgeon also said that hospitality businesses will be required to keep a record of customer details for four weeks in the event of an outbreak at the premises.

Scottish Licensed Trade Association spokesman, Paul Waterson, said the announcement was “much-needed good news” for the trade but said the implementation of strict measures to reduce atmosphere in venues – similar to that of the UK Government’s guidelines which discourages entertainment such as TV broadcasts and loud music – would prove “extremely problematic” for operators.

Waterson said: “Today’s announcement is clearly much-needed good news for pubs but many operators desperately need the two-metre social distancing parameter reduced if they are to be viable.

“We appreciate that some measures will be absolutely necessary and of course we will work round those and adhere to them but the guidance must be balanced and sensible. Who wants to spend time in a pub when there is no atmosphere?

“We said last week that Scotland’s hospitality sector will take a long time to rebuild and recover, and while today’s announcement gives us definitive dates to work towards, make no mistake – there is still a very long way to go with many other issues to be addressed.”

This message was echoed by Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, who said news of a firm reopening date will offer “huge comfort” to businesses as many are now ready to reopen.

Crothall said: “This is the announcement that Scotland’s tourism industry has been so eager to hear and will offer huge comfort to thousands of businesses that there is a summer season ahead.

“Businesses who can provide outdoor hospitality will also be pleased to have a firm date for opening of 6 July, as will those in the supply chain. The STA, along with our colleagues at the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to highlight the opportunity there is for certain sectors to open earlier and safely because of their very nature and I know many are ready now to do so.

We need our employees, visitors and communities to feel safe, reassured, protected and confident. A great deal is at stake – the health of our nation, our economy and indeed the reputation and sustainability of our tourism industry. There must be a balanced message around unlocking, opening and safety; it is so important that we get this right.”

UK Hospitality executive director for Scotland, Willie Macleod, said the indicative dates in July have given businesses “valuable time” to prepare for reopening but said that a move to one metre physical distance could be the difference between the survival and failure of a business.

Macleod said: “Having confirmation of the reopening date is a really positive step forward. It should give businesses a much-needed sense of clarity now they know what they are aiming for. It will take time for businesses to prepare after such a long shutdown, so this will give venues valuable time to get ready and draw up the necessary plans.

“We now await the Scottish Government’s decision on the social distancing measures that will be put in place. If it is safe to do so, then the distance should be reduced to one metre. It will give businesses vital extra room to manoeuvre and will greatly increase venue capacity. This extra margin could be the difference between a business failing and a business surviving the remainder of the crisis. Any steps that can be taken to save businesses and protect jobs should be taken if it is safe.”

Emma McClarkin of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) said the prompt publication of guidance on how the Test and Protect system will operate in hospitality settings would be welcome.

McClarkin said: “There are still major challenges; the two-metre physical distance presents a major obstacle in reopening with nine out of ten premises saying it is financially unviable and could risk as many as 23,600 jobs as a result. We would like to have seen the Scottish Government enable one metre plus in our pubs as they have in England. Exactly how the Test and Protect system will operate in the hospitality settings is also something we are keen to see more detail on and will welcome guidance on that being published as soon as possible.

“All in all, this is a signpost in the right direction for our sector, but not the decision we urgently need on reducing social distancing from two metres to one metre to put our sector on its road to recovery. There’s a long way still to go and continued support from both Scottish and UK Government’s will be required, but for the moment I’m sure we’re all looking forward to that first beer back in or outside a pub.”