Pub owners call for clarity over ‘muddled’ guidance as sector reopens

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·3-min read

The owners of a Glasgow bar have said the industry needs clarity in the guidance issued by the Scottish Government as the sector reopens.

Restrictions were eased on Monday, meaning customers can return to bars and drink outdoors, but there has been some confusion expressed by business owners over social distancing in recent weeks.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon dispelled the worries as “myths”, adding just one metre should be left between people from different households, the same as during the first easing of restrictions last year.

Colin Clydesdale, co-owner of the Ubiquitous Chip, said he needed “longitudinal tables” to work out how many people would be allowed to sit in the bar’s outdoor spaces at any one time.

He told the PA news agency on Monday he agreed with the need for a lockdown but said: “Some of (the guidance) has been absolutely on the money and brilliant and necessary, and I get it all.

“But, from our point of view, it’s been a long, hard slog and a lot of what we’re facing at the moment is very, very muddled.

“We don’t entirely know what we’re meant to be complying with – we’re trying our very best – so how the customers know I’m not sure.

“You actually need some sort of longitudinal table to actually work out how many customers you can have in or out and what denomination of – it’s not easy but we’ll get there.”

Carole Wright, the other co-owner of the bar, said the industry needed clarity, especially if restrictions would have to be reimposed following a spike in cases.

Colin Clydesdale and Carole Wright, owners of Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow
The pub owners said clarity was key for the sector as it reopens (Story Shop/PA)

“If something happens again, how is it going to affect hospitality? Shutting us down, opening us up, not letting us sell alcohol, not knowing if you’re going to be able to furlough staff – you can’t run businesses, you can’t plan businesses with that lack of information, so we want clarity and we want consulted,” she said.

Mr Clydesdale added his staff were “raring to go” as the bar opened its roof terrace and outdoor seating areas to drinkers on Monday, adding: “If the trajectory keeps going in the right direction, then we’re absolutely up for it.”

He admitted the past four-and-a-half months of closure had “not been easy” on his business or the sector as a whole.

“Horrendous – there is no other (way to describe it),” he said.

“We’ve been doing this for 50 years, we’ve made good choices along the way and bad choices along the way and we’ve set plans in motion, some have worked out really well and others haven’t and we’ve changed direction – we’ve always been, in theory, masters of our own destiny.

“This time, there was nothing we could do – very hard to deal with, across the whole industry, not just us.”

Patrick Harvie speaking in the background of a pint of beer
Patrick Harvie visited a Glasgow pub after the easing of restrictions (Craig Paton/PA)

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie visited the Finnieston Bar in Glasgow, saying it “felt fantastic” to be back in a beer garden.

“I think everyone right across Scotland has been desperate to get back to a dose of normality,” he said.

“We know we have to do that carefully, cautiously and obey the rules – as most people have done really well for the last year.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross also paid a visit to 56 North in Edinburgh.

“It’s great to see hospitality reopening, many jobs rely on the sector right across Scotland, so it’s really encouraging to see a partial reopening of the sector,” he said.

“Obviously Scottish Conservatives have called for some time to see the restrictions due to be eased on May 17 brought forward to today, because that would allow the whole industry to reopen.

“While it’s great that some of our pubs are being able to reopen, many that don’t have outdoor spaces remain closed today.”