PUBLICANS and restauranters across the region were all ears for the First Minster’s announcement on the “cautious easing” of coronavirus restrictions this week.
They were told their sector could begin to reopen on April 26 “assuming the data allows it”.
However, some were quick to outline differences between Nicola Sturgeon’s “strategic framework” and Boris Johnson’s “roadmap”, set-out on Monday.
Venues in England will be allowed to reopen outdoors serving alcohol with no requirement for food orders alongside, from “no earlier than 12 April”.
But Scotland’s later provisional date will see the country move back into level three restrictions, which currently prohibits the sale of alcohol and requiring customers to clear-out by 6 pm.
The Prime Minister’s set of indicative dates teased the prospect of pubs and nightclubs fully opening up south of the border by the end of June, but the First Minister is yet to indicate when Scotland could move to level two and beyond.
Reacting, Stephen Montgomery, landlord of the Townhead Hotel in Lockerbie and the Jolly Harvester in Dumfries, said Tuesday’s announcement was “devoid of everything”.
He added: “There was zero economic plans, zero reassurances, business focus, nothing.
“I understand that she couldn’t give us definite dates, but indicative dates would have been something. Boris and the UK Government has given 17th of May for indoors, they’ve given weddings some hope, nightclubs, which is maybe a wee bit far fetched, however he did caveat with saying ‘if things go the way they are’.”
Stephen, who is the Scottish Hospitality Group’s spokesperson, said that the industry needs a “clear and definitive timeline for what’s going to happen after the 26th of April”.
“All they’ve done is kick the can up the street again,” he added. “We still don’t know where we are, we’re still hanging on and we are absolutely hanging on by our fingertips at the moment.
“And the big thing people are forgetting about, and I have to say this, at the end of April we are starting to pay back bounce back loans, VAT deferrals, all these things that have been put on hold until April, and we are still left now not knowing where we will be.”
Sharon Willacy, of Annan’s Buck Inn, is disappointed with the lack of information from the Scottish Government and said: “When you’re trying to run a business you need warning, something to work to. Not only has she not set out dates, the dates she has set out, the 26th of April, she’s talking about going into level three which means you can’t serve alcohol anyway and she’s not stated whether she’s going to tweak the levels so we can’t even really work to the 26th of April.
“If she leaves it the way it was you can’t serve alcohol and you’ve got to shut the doors by six o’clock; I doubt there will be any pubs that open up.”
Sharon, who also runs a taxi firm in Annan alongside her husband, added that lifting hospitality restrictions earlier in England “puts Scotland on the back foot” as people will cross the border to visit pubs “regardless of if she says you can cross the border or not”.
“The other thing with the level system,” she said, “is that it actually spreads it more. We had lots of people from Glasgow when they got locked down in the pubs and in the taxis, they were coming down here even though they weren’t meant to, so she’s causing it to spread more.”