Scottish Government Publishes Hospitality Sector Reopening Guidelines

The Scottish government has published its reopening guidelines for the hospitality and tourism sectors. As well as confirming the proposed reopening of the industry from 15 July, the document includes a checklist for businesses, including publication of a risk assessment that must also be written down for companies with more than five employees. It includes sections on workforce planning, capacity management and staff training, all planned around two-metre social distancing.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed social distancing measures would be subject to rigorous research with an announcement on any change from the current two-metre parameter unlikely for another two weeks. The Scottish government’s guidance also refers to UKHospitality’s guidelines for the reopening of hospitality businesses in Scotland, which are also published on Thursday (18 June).

Meanwhile, Scottish operators have been told the decision on reopening outdoor areas of pubs, bars and other licensed venues will not be reviewed until 2 July.

Businesses were hoping a date would be set on Thursday as Sturgeon announced a further easing of lock-down measures, including most shops in the country being able to reopen from 29 June.

UKH welcomed the publication: UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland, Willie Macleod said: “It is heartening to have the Scottish Government’s guidance, and the clarity they bring for businesses. They should provide an end to many of the uncertainties which have persisted over recent weeks for businesses that have been hit very hard by this crisis, and allow planning to get underway for re-opening.

“The importance of the hospitality sector to Scotland’s economy cannot be denied. Hospitality is the mainstay of the country’s tourism industry and plays a vital role socially as well as economically. Re-opening will be critical in helping the country get back up and running.

“We are naturally very pleased that the Scottish Government has also included a link to UKHospitality’s guidelines which are available to the entire sector.

“Even with the greater certainty that the re-opening guidance now provides, we should not forget that businesses have been hit very hard and the sector remains in a fragile state. We must have continued sector-specific support from both the UK and Scottish Governments. We are pleased to see that social distancing measures will be reviewed also. Reducing the minimum distance required, if it is safe to do so, would be a huge bonus for businesses as they look to reopen.”

In contrast, the SLTA expressed “bitter disappointment” at First Minster’s announcement on reopening of pubs’ and bars’ outdoor areas

SLTA managing director, Colin Wilkinson said: “The First Minister’s announcement today is a bitter blow for Scotland’s hospitality sector, which expected to be able to now kick-start the rebuilding of the industry.

“With the decision now delayed until July 2, operators face another anxious period for the survival of their businesses. This may also have a knock-on effect for the reopening of indoor areas, originally planned – all being well – for July 15.

“This delay, hypothetically only two weeks before full reopening, may be possible with social distancing measures and again brings into question whether these first steps, for those who have an outdoor area or the potential to have one, will actually help businesses to start recovering from this pandemic.

“With Government guidelines due to be published soon, hospitality businesses will have very little lead-in time to prepare for complying with guidance for outdoor areas, and that alone causes problems, especially on social distancing parameters which look like remaining at 2m, and toilet provision for customers seated outdoors.

“Research shows that unless the 2m social distancing parameters are reduced, the potential reductions in capacity could be as high as 87%.”

“Without question, health and safety must come before profit but the First Minister’s comment that ‘there is emerging evidence that places such as pubs, restaurants and gyms can be hotspots for transmission’ will do nothing to alleviate customer confidence in returning to our pubs and bars.

“Already a recent survey to gauge how people feel about life post-lockdown revealed that 62% of people were unlikely to return to bars and restaurants for some time yet. The challenge of rebuilding our industry just got harder.

“The need for ongoing support for the industry is now even greater with the announcement that outdoor areas will remain closed for at least another two weeks. Ongoing and increased support for the months ahead is essential, and when the industry does start to rebuild, Governments, both north and south of the Border, must not see this as a marker to further reduce support for the industry.”