'We are looking forward to popping a few corks and welcoming everyone back again': Scottish business owners react to road map out of lockdown

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced indicative dates for Scotland to exit lockdown, including when hospitality venues can reopen.

From April 26, pubs with beer gardens will also be able to reopen to serve people outside in groups of up to six from three households, until 10pm.

Alcohol will be permitted, and there will be no requirement for food to be served at this time.

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There will also be indoor opening of hospitality from April 26, limited initially to food and non-alcoholic drinks until 8pm.

Hospitality in Scotland can start to open from 26 April.
Hospitality in Scotland can start to open from 26 April.

From May 17, Scots can expect hospitality venues to open until 10:30pm indoors with alcohol permitted, and 10pm outdoors with alcohol permitted.

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"We’re bitterly disappointed"

Reacting to the First Minister’s statement, UKHospitality Scotland executive director Willie Macleod said: “There is a lot to unpack from the First Minister’s announcement and, as ever, we are going to need to see the detail.

"We had put forward a reopening proposition to the Scottish Government which would have given us more flexibility, but at least we do now have a plan.

"A nationwide lifting of controls, rather than the previous local system, will be simpler and give businesses the clarity they need. After such a devastating year for hospitality, it is encouraging to see light at the end of the tunnel and dates that we can begin to work towards."

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has expressed disappointment that bars, restaurants and cafés will not be able to serve alcohol indoors when the licensed hospitality industry reopens next month.

SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: "This is not the news we were hoping for.

"Yes, it’s good news for those bars, restaurants and cafés with suitable facilities who will be able to serve people outdoors – in groups of up to six from three households – until 10pm from April 26.

"However, for indoor hospitality, today’s news is yet another bitter blow and we are surprised that the Scottish Government has chosen not to allow premises to sell alcohol when they reopen next month.

"We, of course, welcome the news that from May 17, hospitality venues will be able to open until 10:30pm indoors with alcohol permitted and, for outdoors, until 10pm.

"We welcome these indicative dates for reopening as they provide more clarity for businesses, but overall these slight lifting of restrictions don’t go far enough and, for the majority, reopening will remain unviable. We’re bitterly disappointed."

James Thomson, owner of Prestonfield House Hotel and The Witchery, was more upbeat, saying: "Today’s announcement by the First Minister has provided us with a much needed route out of lockdown.

"This will now allow us to start to plan for reopening our doors at Prestonfield and The Witchery on April 26 and to rebuild our businesses and the economy. We are very much looking forward to popping a few corks on April 26, no matter the weather and to welcoming everyone back again.”

"This is a much needed announcement”

Nic Wood, owner of Edinburgh-based Signature Group, added: "We’re grateful that the First Minister has provided a clear, concise re-opening schedule and we look forward to April 26 to open our doors and serve customers outside, initially.

"This is a much needed announcement as businesses must plan, invest, retrain, educate and prepare to reopen in 2021 after a devastating second wave of coronavirus.

"For most of the Central Belt, we have not served alcohol since October 8, 2020 and whilst we won’t be popping champagne corks to enable people to enjoy a cocktail with a main meal is progress and demonstrates a degree of trust from the First Minister in the behaviours of the general public and operators.

“Whilst there has never been any evidence to suggest hospitality spread the virus, and the restrictions to trade and guidance to operate make transmission unlikely, we are encouraged that the Scottish Government is listening and beginning to understand the complexities of our sector.

"No-one is underestimating the effects of the pandemic and public health is right to be at the forefront of all minds, but we need to consider the economic implications and find the right balance."

Stefano Pieraccini, director of The Broughton on Broughton Street, said while the news was good, an earlier announcement in line with England would have given businesses more time to prepare.

He said: "Those businesses with outside space are clearly going to get a head start to serve alcohol with food, but that isn’t going to work for very businesses model."

Fred Berkmiller of Edinburgh restaurant l’escargot bleu added: "A clear date for once is wonderful to hear, we can now sharpen our knives and get organised at l'escargot.”

Toni Carbajosa, restaurateur and director of Cranside Kitchen in Glasgow, said the announcement made sense, despite business owners being desperate to open.

He said: "Hospitality demonstrated their ability in the past to work in accordance with Scottish Government advice and did an excellent job. We can do it again, but this time we want it to be permanent."

Chef Jimmy Lee, who owns Lychee Oriental in Glasgow, is very keen to reopen and said the April 26 date has been greatly welcomed.

"Financially, it's been difficult for us to stay closed, but the key is to keep proactively working toward an opening and being prepared for it," he said.

Most people will be keen to get a holiday in Scotland booked, as the stay at home rule will end on 26 April.

One of the main tourist routes, the North Coast 500, is set to once again be a popular destination for many.

Tom Campbell, executive chair of North Coast 500 Ltd, said of the road map dates: "It is really encouraging to see positive steps in the reopening of the hospitality and tourism sectors and while there is still caution, businesses and communities now have the ability to plan for a relaxation in the restrictions.”

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