Scotland's hospitality bosses in uproar after being told they need giant tables to seat customers

Dan Sanderson
·4-min read
A member of staff serves drinks in the beer garden at the Bier Halle, Glasgow, when outdoor areas reopened last year - Jane Barlow/PA
A member of staff serves drinks in the beer garden at the Bier Halle, Glasgow, when outdoor areas reopened last year - Jane Barlow/PA

Scotland’s hospitality bosses have hit out at "bombshell" SNP guidance for reopening which they say will force them to install giant tables to keep customers one metre apart.

Senior figures within the industry said draft rules issued by the Scottish Government, which confirms distancing will apply to those within the same group in restaurants and pubs when they reopen next week, would mean some businesses would be unable to operate.

They have been told they would need a table at least a metre wide and three-and-a-half metres long to accommodate a group of six, with the distancing rules applying to both indoor and outdoor areas.

There has been little evidence of one-metre distancing within groups since the sector reopened in England -  Barcroft Media/ Barcroft Media
There has been little evidence of one-metre distancing within groups since the sector reopened in England - Barcroft Media/ Barcroft Media

Scottish Government officials insisted there had been no change to the one metre distancing requirement.

However, the publication of images showing the necessary sizes of tables, which also must be at least one metre apart from other tables, has raised fears that the rule will be more rigidly enforced than it was when venues were open last year.

In England, venues have also been warned of the need for distancing, although they have been told that the focus is on keeping different groups apart, rather than members of the same group.

Images of drinkers since the hospitality sector reopened outdoors in England has shown little evidence of one-metre distancing within groups and the UK Government has told councils to avoid "overzealous" interpretations of the rules.

Carina Contini, co-owner of Cantini restaurants in Edinburgh, said she had been forced to cancel bookings since the guidance was issued on Friday due to reduced capacity.

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“They have thrown us an absolute bombshell, an absolutely impossibility in terms of reopening,” she said.

"It is absolutely going to be crippling for the sector. If I was catering for six people at a table, I would have to have a table that is 3.5m (11ft) long.

"There is not a restaurant supplier in the country that makes tables that are 3.5m long. Elderly couples who may be hard of hearing are going to have to FaceTime themselves over lunch because the distance is so far away."

Ms Contini also criticised the short notice, ahead of the sector's planned reopening next Monday, and urged the Scottish government to reconsider.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said in one of his restaurants’ seating areas he would be able to have just two tables if he was to follow the rules. He said he would have to join six normal sized tables together to accommodate a group of six.

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Nicola Sturgeon is expected to confirm on Tuesday that hospitality venues can reopen from Monday. They will be able to serve alcohol only outdoors.

“This isn’t a viable option for our restaurant or bar trade and it needs to be looked at very, very seriously,” Mr Montgomery said.

Maurice Golden, economy spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: “This is the latest example of our hospitality businesses being a complete afterthought for SNP Ministers.

“Vital jobs and livelihoods remain under great threat in the sector and this draft guidance does absolutely nothing to support them."

The government said it had worked with industry and unions to ensure its guidance was "evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic".