Operators raise concerns over Scotland's lockdown route map

27 May 2020 by
Operators raise concerns over Scotland's lockdown route map

Operators have raised concerns over Scotland's route map to exiting lockdown, including businesses' outdoor spaces being able to reopen earlier than indoor spaces, and the timeline not aligning with changes to the UK-wide Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Edinburgh restaurateur Tom Kitchin pointed out that to "bank everything on the weather is very difficult" and that many businesses do not have outdoor space.

Speaking to The Caterer, he said: "You've got to staff these things. With outdoor space in Scotland – you look outside and it's blue skies, so then you try to staff for a busy day. It will be peeing it down within half an hour… As soon as you start bringing people off furlough, you can't just switch them on and off."

Pubs and restaurants will be able to open outdoor spaces during the second phase of lockdown easing, according to the roadmap. Schools are anticipated to open on 11 August as part of the third phase. This will also be the phase when pubs and restaurants will be able to open indoor spaces with physical distancing, and restrictions on hotels and B&Bs will be relaxed.

However, this could mean a different reopening timeframe to England, where areas of hospitality could begin to reopen from 4 July.

Kitchin added: "It's really important that the government allows the sectors to advise. They can't just come up with these rules without really understanding the industry."

The restaurateur behind the city's Michelin-starred Kitchen restaurant, Southside Scran, Bonnie Badger, Scran & Scallie and Castle Terrace is one of the operators backing a letter to the Scottish government calling for a host of support measures for the industry.

Kitchin, Gordon Campbell-Gray, Carina Contini, Martin Wishart and Nick Nairn are calling for an extended furlough, an extension of the business rates holiday, a 12-month rent-free period, a Scottish independent hospitality development fund, and VAT reduction.

Pub group Brewdog, which has 18 sites in Scotland and 32 in England, and Hawksmoor, which has one site in Edinburgh and eight across London and Manchester, are prepared for a staggered approach to reopening sites.

A spokesperson for Brewdog said: "Our main ask of Scottish and UK governing bodies would be for guidelines on social distancing to be reviewed in line with other countries' social distancing measures."

However, several operators raised concerns over the differences between the Scottish and English route maps, and yet the CJRS being UK-wide. From the start of August, employers will be asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.

Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett said: "The Scottish plan is comprehensive except it's not in step with the financial plan that the UK government has in place, and it doesn't help us work to a date.

"It helps knowing 4 July at the earliest [in England], because that's the same as saying ‘be ready'... The date after which the CJRS ceases to exist in its current form is 31 July, so is the implication that the British government will say that all employers have to contribute towards their furloughed staff costs from 1 August, but the Scottish government will say that no restaurant company can take any revenue?"

Martin Williams, chief executive of Gaucho and M Restaurants, added: "If they delay opening, is the Scottish government going to step in?"

Photo: Shutterstock

Restaurants and bars in Scotland with outdoor space will reopen earlier >>

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended until the end of October >>

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