Demands to end ‘kneejerk’ ban on background music in pubs and restaurants

A trade group has called for an end to the ban on background music in pubs and restaurants, saying the lack of atmosphere is having a severe effect on business.

The ban came into effect when the Scottish Government allowed pubs, clubs and restaurants to reopen, with guidelines to help prevent the spread of cornavirus.

The ban was explained as a way to stop people having to lean in to talk to one another, something experts said would increase the risk of the virus spreading.

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But now a body representing Scotland’s night time industries has said the lack of music might actually be encouraging people to lean closer while talking, and suggested Scotland was the only country in the world – other than Turkey – to bring in a music ban.

The Night-Time Industries Association Scotland (NTIAS) announced the #DontStopTheMusic campaign to fight for an end to the background music ban, which it said was adding to an already seriously pressurised environment for the night-time economy as music was “central to creating a welcoming environment for customers”.

NTIAS chairman Michael Grieve said: “The total ban on background music is having a severe effect on many businesses within hospitality and the late-night economy, leading to completely sterile environments which some have likened to visiting a library.

“It seems completely disproportionate relative to other settings and whilst our industry is totally committed to the serious public health imperatives which the Scottish Government is focused on, our already damaged sector is in serious danger of a complete wipe-out unless this ban is removed.”

The group also said experts in acoustics had questioned the scientific rationale behind the ban and cited evidence that appropriate and well-managed background music does not interfere with people’s ability to communicate.

Paul Smith, chief executive of CGL Leisure, said: “A ban on background music is a step too far.

“It is a kneejerk reaction by government mandarins and is based on no scientific evidence. It is counterproductive. Where there is no ambient sound, people lean in towards each other when talking, which is a greater risk of aerosol spread.”

Stuart McPhee, director of Aberdeen’s Siberia Bar and Hotel, said: “The vacuum of atmosphere in any hospitality setting as a result of the ban on background music is having all kinds of profound consequences.

“Well run, safe and controlled hospitality environments losing money despite their best efforts, customers leaning in to avoid overhearing conversation, staff dealing with customers playing music on their phones. But to top it off, the general public are staying away because in their own homes there are none of these draconian measures.”

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