A ban on background music in pubs and restaurants designed to prevent coronavirus spreading is wrecking the atmosphere in venues and must be reversed to save businesses, Scotland’s hospitality industry has said.
Several businesses owners have questioned the scientific basis for the ban, which also extends to sound from TVs, and say that Scotland is the only country in the world with such a policy in place.
The Scottish Government ordered that there should be no music in venues or sound from televisions, as part of a clampdown after a coronavirus outbreak in Aberdeen that was linked to pubs and bars in the city.
The changes were designed to prevent people from raising their voices, which it was warned could lead to the virus spreading, as droplets from saliva travel further the louder someone speaks.
However, the science behind a complete ban on background noise, rather than just on loud music, has been questioned. Some landlords have warned it is counter-productive as sitting in silence causes people to move closer together to prevent being overheard by other groups.
SCOTLAND IS THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD TO BAN BACKGROUND MUSIC DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC— Firewater Glasgow (@FirewaterClub) September 28, 2020
Night-Time Industries Association Scotland (NTIAS) Launches the #DontStopTheMusic Campaign pic.twitter.com/mwaTJzoSS1
A new campaign launched by the Night-Time Industries Association Scotland (NTIA) has been launched aimed at overturning the ban, with the group warning that it is having devastating consequences for businesses.
There have been fears that coronavirus restrictions are causing more people to stay at home, as venues become more alien environments.
The policy was creating “sterile” venues which have been compared to visiting a library, Michael Grieve, chairman of the NTIA, said.
“It seems completely disproportionate relative to other settings," he said. "While our industry is totally committed to the serious public health imperatives which the Scottish Government is focused on, our already damaged sector is in serious danger of being permanently wiped out unless this ban is removed.”
The campaign group has launched a social media campaign, in which members of the public are urged to share their favourite song, in an effort to get the policy changed.
The NTIA said it was not aware of any other country in the world that had replicated Scotland in bringing in the policy.
Paul Smith, chief executive of Castle Leisure Group, a Stirling-based pub operator, described the ban as “a knee jerk reaction by government mandarins” which he said was based on no scientific evidence.
He added: “It is counterproductive. Where there is no ambient sound people lean in towards each other when talking which is a greater risk of aerosol spread.”
Brain Fulton, director of Glasgow-based Holdfast Entertainment Group, said: “Scotland is renowned for being the world’s most welcoming country, and its blanket prohibition on background music goes against the basic principles of hospitality.
“It turns a warm and welcoming atmosphere into a cold and sterile one, which can only be damaging for our country’s reputation across the globe”.
The ban, which was introduced in August, was accompanied by guidance in which pub staff were urged to challenge “loud” behaviour from customers.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We don’t want the restrictions in place for any longer than is needed, but the measures are in place for good reason: the advice remains that hospitality premises should have no background music or volume from TVs because of the increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets when people raise their voices. This measure is being kept under review.”