Clarity key to give trade a fighting chance

Gillian McKenzieBy Gillian McKenzie

BY its very definition, the ‘Coronavirus: tourism and hospitality sector guidance’ issued by the Scottish Government should have offered clarity and direction on additional safety measures and practices for pubs and restaurants.

In a sector crippled by almost four months of closure, clear and definitive reopening guidance could have given those operating and working in pubs and restaurants – not to mention their customers – a greater sense of confidence and consistency.

Of course, COVID-19 is new territory for everyone, and the situation has evolved since the initial outbreak. And of course every premises is different, hence the requisite individual risk assessments.

But surely there could have been greater clarity – and, in many cases, advance warning – on what was to be required. Instead, what has followed is a steady stream of guidance – sometimes published just a few hours before the trade needed it; and which has been updated or tweaked at least eight times – often with no notification that changes have been made. The use of pool tables and fruit machines, for example, initially seemed to be subject to an individual risk assessment; then, the week after reopening was allowed, they weren’t to be used; and, last week, the Scottish Government said they can now be used as long as they are risk assessed. It’s been a similar scenario with background music and TV volume.

What operators need as they seek to restart their businesses in these uncertain times is clarity, not a stream of constantly-changing guidance.