Scotland’s hospitality sector emerges from lockdown

Scores of beer gardens and outdoor areas open for the first time in over three months

Photo credit: Tally Ho Facebook page. Tally Ho bar in West Lothian served a total of 100 covers on Monday

OPERATORS across Scotland who were able to open their beer gardens and outdoor areas yesterday (July 6) enjoyed their first day of trading in over three months.

At The Tally Ho bar in Winchburgh, West Lothian, licensees Trevor and Yvonne Spence increased the pub’s outdoor capacity to seat 115, and invested in new outdoor seats and two open-sided marquees; they had also replaced all door handles at the venue, which is part of Star Pubs & Bars’ portfolio, with anti-microbial models ahead of reopening.

The Spences decided to operate at reduced capacity on their first day of reopening yesterday to help staff adjust to the new way of working; a total of 100 covers were served during its opening hours of 4pm until 9pm.

Trevor said: “The Tally Ho – whilst we were moderately successful as a takeaway business – was, and will always be for the foreseeable future, a pub and so we missed our regulars and new customers alike; and the reaction we received from our customers when they arrived and observed the investment we have put into the pub to make it safe was gratefully received by all.

“All furloughed members of staff came back to work yesterday and we also have some new team members joining us as we feel we will need additional bodies. We intend to use the new Swifty app for table bookings but until it’s set up it’s back to paper and pen for taking orders.

“On weekdays, before the pandemic, food made up around 60% of our orders and 40% were from drinks. Yesterday it was the opposite and [we saw] a slight swing to drink but this is unsurprising as people just wanted out of their homes to relax.”

In Glasgow, owner of West on the Green, Petra Wetzel, welcomed over 500 covers on Monday and said she was “proud” of the way customers conducted themselves under the new way of operating.

Wetzel said: “It was a good first day. Over 500 covers, no incidents, everybody was really well behaved. I was really proud of our customers. We had lots of regulars; it was so nice. We’ve been hosting the same people for years, and it’s just so nice that the people who’ve supported us throughout with takeaway beer are able to sit again in the garden and, hopefully after July 15, in the beer hall.

“Some people stayed for one. Some stayed for two. A couple of groups stayed for three. Nothing got out of hand.”

Operating with 18 front of house staff yesterday, Petra said the brewery’s St Mungo beer was the biggest seller “by a country mile”.

“St Mungo and currywurst. That was what we sold all day,” she said.

“I felt like a schoolmistress – every time someone came in it was ‘where are you sitting?’ ‘Oh we haven’t got a seat’. ‘Well find yourself a seat and come back to me’.

“I felt like a typical German telling everybody what to do, but everybody understood. I said to them I can’t risk losing my licence to sell a few more beers.”

Customers of The Pear Tree in Edinburgh will have a digital temperature check on entry

In Edinburgh, the reopening of the outdoor area at The Pear Tree yesterday was a “great success”, according to Jay Glass of parent company Caledonian Heritable – and the 260-capacity space (at a two-metre social distance) is “pretty much fully booked” into next week.

Its bookings system allows customers to book a table in the beer garden for two hours, with no deposit taken; the bookings system stores customer contact details for the 21 days required by NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system. Customers are greeted at the entrance where they have a digital temperature check and are then shown to a table where there’s a QR code and instructions on how to use the order and pay app, which was developed by Jay during the lockdown phase. A similar system will be in place at The Rose Street Garden when it opens on Thursday (July 9).

“Yesterday at The Pear Tree was a great success, it went really well,” said Jay.

“There was a really good atmosphere, and everyone was in really good spirits and enjoyed being out. We’re pretty much fully booked into next week; there’s been a great uptake.”

Photo credit: Mercat Grill Facebook page. The outdoor area at the Mercat Grill will open this weekend from Thursday until Sunday

Graham Blaikie, owner of Mercat Grill in Musselburgh, opened for two hours on Monday afternoon as a “dry run” ahead of the weekend.

Blaikie ­– who plans to open his outdoor area this weekend from Thursday until Sunday – is taking bookings for the 20 al fresco tables – which are two metres apart and limited to one group of customers – to record customer details for the NHS Scotland Test and Protect system. QR codes have also been added to the tables for customers to order food and drinks and a one-way system has been implemented.

“I’ve put protective coating on the tables that kills the virus,” he said. “It gives you peace of mind. I got it done inside the pub as well, and on the toilets.

“I had wanted to rearrange my whole outdoor area – it was a fenced area so people could come with their dogs. The seats were a bit weather-beaten, so we scrapped it all, went to the architect and got some really big umbrellas. And we got the glass panel sides. I was really pleased. It’ll work year-round.

“We’ve got the procedures in place where they [customers] come in, they need to sterilise their hands, they sit down, and then if they use any of the facilities internally the same thing goes. And we have individual bottles for each table just in case they forget. Having been a boy scout I like to be prepared.”