The Scottish government has said that hospitality businesses could reopen for indoor service from 15 July.
Fergus Ewing, secretary for rural economy, said on Wednesday 10 June that businesses should “start to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on the 15th July 2020.”
“This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to phase three of the route map. Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.”
“I have been engaging with businesses since the beginning of the outbreak and I have heard their calls for more clarity,” he said.
The news has been welcomed by trade bodies in the UK, as it gives venues such as pubs and bars vital time to plan how they will accommodate social distancing rules.
However, there are concerns that some rules, such as the requirement that people stay at least two metres apart, could prove fatal for many venues.
Emma McClarkin CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said: “The setting of a date for reopening is some positive news for the country’s pubs and brewers, and something we have been pushing the Scottish Government on for several weeks. This gives some much-needed clarity for the sector and will also give industry the time necessary to put in place what is needed to reopen safely on the 15th of July.
“However, there is still a number of challenges for pubs that can’t be forgotten. Under the current two-metre social distancing rules, we believe up to two-thirds of Scotland’s pubs will need to remain closed.”
McClarkin said the two-metre rule could be reduced to one-metre, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation, and has been adopted by other countries.
“It is imperative for the hospitality sector that the Scottish Government explores the World Health Organisation’s suggested one-metre rule for social distancing.
“Other countries, like New Zealand have allowed their pubs to safely re-open up at one-metre distance. If this was followed in Scotland, we could save thousands of jobs which otherwise will be lost through redundancies.”
Acting on behalf of the British Beer and Pub Association, where she is also the chief executive, McClarkin said that only one third of pubs in England would be able to accommodate a two-metre rule.
“Not only would the reduction from two metres to one metre enable more pubs to get back on their feet, it would enable those pubs to reopen at a more viable level, giving them more space to operate in and enabling more pub staff to return to work.”
“Sadly, if no reduction is made before 4th July this could result in devastating pub closures and job losses in communities across England that can been avoided.”
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of the industry body UK Hospitality, said outlets would be only able to make about 30% of normal revenues if they accommodate a two-metre rule. Halving that distance would mean that up to three quarters of venues could open their doors again.
UKHospitality executive director for Scotland, Willie Macleod said: “It’s good to have some clarity from the Scottish Government and a real sense that we are moving towards the reopening of hospitality and tourism businesses.”
However, those venues that won’t be able to open need additional support, he said.
“Consumer confidence is going to be vital to businesses as the sector reopens. Hospitality and tourism businesses in Scotland have been hammered very hard and trading will be tricky once they reopen. Social distancing measures will be in place and businesses will only be able to operate at a fraction of normal capacity.”