Nicola Sturgeon urges Scots to drink safely as beer gardens reopen today

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to drink safely today as beer gardens and pavement cafes reopen amid warnings that drunk people are unable to socially distance.

The reopenings, initially with the two-metre rule in place, mark a major step in the hospitality sector’s route out of lockdown. Indoor parts of pubs and restaurants could reopen on 15 July as the Covid-19 restrictions ease.

Anyone visiting outdoor establishments will be asked to provide their name and contact telephone number to the business as well as logging the date and time of their visit as part of Scotland’s Test and Protect effort. The move follows the reopening on Saturday of pubs in England for the first time since lockdown, which led to scenes of revellers ignoring social distancing rules.

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As images emerged of packed streets in the early hours of yesterday in London’s Soho, the chairman of the Police Federation south of the Border said it was “crystal clear” drinkers would not adhere to social distancing rules.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sits by a fire pit table during a visit to Cold Town House in Edinburgh's Grassmarket. Picture: Andrew Milligan - Pool/Getty Images

John Apter, who was on shift in Southampton where he dealt with “naked men, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights and more angry drunks”, said: “What was crystal clear is that drunk people can’t/won’t socially distance. It was a busy night but the shift managed to cope.

“I know other areas have had issues with officers being assaulted.”

Before today’s reopening of beer gardens and pavement cafes in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said: “The sacrifices made by the public have suppressed this virus, protected our health service and ultimately saved lives, and I know those sacrifices have not always been easy.

“I hope that as we take these first gradual steps out of lockdown people will begin to feel more of the sense of normality that we have worked so hard for, although it is important to remember that the virus has not gone away so we cannot get complacent.

“No beer garden or cafe should feel the same as it did before. The vast majority of the hospitality industry will be following the rules and putting in place new procedures to help control the virus.”

Rafal Liszewski, a store manager at Clonezone in Soho’s Old Compton Street, described crowds in the area on Saturday night as “out of control”.

The 36-year-old said: “Around 1pm crowds started to arrive... quickly everything got out of control and by 8-9pm it was a proper street party with people dancing and drinking. Barely anyone was wearing masks and nobody respected social distancing... to be honest, with that many people on one street it was physically impossible.”

Marc Foley-Comer said the bars he went to in Soho on Saturday night had “excellent safety measures” and social distancing in place but the scenes outside resembled London’s Pride celebrations.

He said: “It was packed... it was like it was Pride – and very chaotic and people were pretty drunk but the police were en-forcing and doing a good job.

“We decided to leave as it was too busy and too risky... there was no social distancing.”

Four people were arrested in Nottinghamshire and several pubs closed after alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

The two-metre distancing rule will initially apply in Scotland but the SNP government has published guidelines for the sector that could allow venues to halve that distance.

Further guidance is expected later and it is anticipated phase three measures will be announced this week.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said the reopening of beer gardens and pavement cafes “marks an important milestone for the trade in Scotland”.

She said: “Being able to open their doors again and welcome customers back is something every pub has looked forward to since March. For those premises with outdoor space and are able to reopen, today is definitely a positive one. The majority, however, will be waiting until the 15th of July for the reopening of indoor areas and that date cannot come soon enough.

“Things will be a little different with added mitigation measures to help protect customers and ensure they feel safe, but they will still be the same places we all know and love. We all have a shared interest in continuing to suppress the virus and the pub sector is definitely ready to play our part in welcoming our customers back responsibly.

“We’ve been closed for over 100 days but the recovery period for the hospitality sector will be much longer than that. Looking ahead to next year and the Scottish Parliament election, we’ll be pushing all parties to include significant support for the hospitality sector in their manifestos – it is desperately needed.”

Stephen Montgomery, Scottish Licensed Trade Association president, also urged customers to drink safely.

He said: “We would encourage customers to keep to physical distancing measures and work with premises to ensure public health is maintained, including providing staff with contact details to support Test and Protect.”

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