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The beers go back on ice: Pubs that had spent weeks preparing for outdoor reopening are left counting the cost

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Pubs and restaurants which were hoping further easing of lockdown restrictions would mean they could open outdoor spaces within days, now face a further wait – with many having already invested in special equipment and technology.

For them, the ability to serve customers in the open air would have allowed them at least to start generating some income – albeit restricted – and begin what will hopefully be the journey to recovery.

But the announcement by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that a decision on beer gardens and terraces reopening would be pushed back by another two weeks was met with disappointment and anger by some who had gone to considerable lengths to prepare for reopening.

Many have spent the past few weeks trying to cover every angle when it comes to ensuring the safety of customers and staff, introducing hand sanitisers, screens, contactless ordering and payment systems.

Others had put in additional decking and marquees and had been adapting car park space to be able to seat customers. Now, those plans go back on hold as they await further news from the Scottish Government.

The beers go back on ice.

Steve MacDonald, owner of The Square in Kintore, and his team have spent the last week and a half preparing to open their doors this weekend.

He said: “I’m really disappointed. Hopefully we’ll hear something in two weeks. We’ve done four months… what’s another two weeks?

“There’s nothing come out from the government to tell us anything, other than keep your doors closed. It’s so, so disappointing. The next thing is, will we even be able to afford to reopen? There’s staff, produce, insurances that we have to think of, too.

The Square Hotel and Pub in Kintore, Steve MacDonald

“We’ve turned the beer garden around within a week and a half. The plan was to be ready to hopefully have customers again from tomorrow. We’d have been good to go from then. All we need now is stock. When the first minister does give us the green light, we’ll be good to open immediately.

“We’re going to have standing room only outside. It’s easier for us. Regarding the amount of people, there still needs to be a bit more guidance from the government. It’s very difficult to have confirmed numbers, but as it stands now, we’re asking customers to physical distance themselves. We have an operation here for a maximum of 24 people with two metre distancing which is far, far less than what we’re used to. We’re down to operating at 30%. It’s a massive, massive hit and is probably just breaking even financially. But it gives us something to do.”

Posted by The Square Kintore on Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Searching for options on how best to ensure the safety of staff and customers, Steve exhausted an array of ideas and has turned to rebuilding the beer garden by hand.

He added:”We looked at various options for marquee tents, umbrellas, igloo tents and looking at the cost of how long you’re going to need that (potentially a year), we decided to just build something ourselves. We were looking at doing the domes but Aberdeenshire Council got in touch with us and said it may not be possible as there’s a planning application that needs to go in for listed building consent, so when you weigh up the cost of that, it’s not worth it and is pointless. The council are working with us, and it’s not really their fault as they are operating on something they don’t really know either.

Posted by The Square Kintore on Tuesday, 16 June 2020

“The government really need to get their finger out and sort it as it’s getting beyond a joke now. You do one thing and get hit with another. If they want us to remain closed, that’s fine, but they need to support us when we are closed. We need start-up grants or something financially to help us as we may have to look at potentially laying off staff.

“The idea was to sit down and look at the document on guidance that we were hoping to see today and go through all of that. But that obviously hasn’t happened. What we had in mind was bookings for Fridays and Saturdays and first-come-first-served any other day of the week. We were really hoping for this weekend with Father’s Day trade and the football being back on – that trade is so, so important to us and it’s been whipped from underneath us.

“This next couple of weeks is going to be crucial, not just for us, but for many other businesses in whether we will be here in 12 weeks time. The really, really disappointing thing is we’re seeing all these protests, marches and gatherings, and we can’t even have 24 people in to have a drink.”

The Seafield Arms in Cullen, Moray, had also hoped to open this weekend. To prepare, tables have been move outside into gazebos with plastic barriers separating them, one-way systems have been introduced, and it would only operate with pre-bookings in line with track and trace guidelines.

The Seafield Arms in Cullen has installed protective screens between tables for diners. Pictured: Manager Donald Thain, right, and deputy manager Ailie Flett. Picture and video above by Jason Hedges.

Manager Donald Thain, said: “We’re actually already prepared for Phase 3 as we’ve managed to achieve the two-metre distancing for inside too, when we reach that.

“All of our staff be it customer-facing or behind the scenes have face masks. Our biggest hurdle I think will be getting staff used to the systems. We’ve all been at the supermarket since lockdown so we all know what to do there as we’ve been doing it a while.

“We’ve got six tables in the patio area and 10 up in the courtyard area which is a wee bit more exposed. This is allowing us to bring some staff back from furlough and generate a wee bit of business. Everyone must pre-book. We won’t be taking any walk-ins and we won’t let anyone who doesn’t have a booking in as we don’t want anyone entering the premises if they don’t have to. I don’t know how customers will feel with the policies we have in place, but it’s for everyone’s safety.

Posted by MPD on Tuesday, 16 June 2020

“When customers make their reservation we take their email address and send out ‘the guest journey during COVID-19’. This explains a step-by-step on how/where to enter. For example, you will come to the front door, ring the bell and the host will come and meet you. We will ask you some questions and then you’ll have to use hand sanitiser. All of our doors will be wedged open and you’ll be directed to your table by your host – this is the only person you’ll have real contact with.

“We have disposable menus and by this time next week you’ll be able to order on your phone. We have a dedicated runner who will go between the table and kitchen. We have stands which we will lay as close to your table as possible, bring the food/drinks to them and then the customer will collect it from there. It is going to be a different experience to a certain degree and goes against the grain on how we would usually serve.”

The venue reopened last year having been shut for eight years and has been working on its expansion plans before lockdown was put in place.

He added: “We give customers two hours for their stay. There’s 30 minutes between each booking to ensure the staff can thoroughly clean the tables. If it is available we will allow customers to stay, but we have to look at the profitability, too. Our preferred payment method is card, but where we need, we will accept cash. We’re going to try set up a service where people can just pay on their phone.

Posted by MPD on Tuesday, 16 June 2020

“To be honest, we have toilet facilities in the hotel, but we discourage the use of them where possible. Our toilet facilities aren’t huge and I would love to pay someone to stand at the door, but we just can’t. We will hand out masks for anyone using the toilet as there’s no way you can guarantee social distancing. Guests must remain at their tables at all times, with the exception of using the toilet. If they do need to use them they have to follow the one-way system.”

We are almost ready to welcome you back! More information coming soon….. #keepsmilingandstaysafe

Posted by The Seafield Arms Hotel – Cullen on Friday, 12 June 2020

Cheers Cafe Bar and Tavern in Fraserburgh also planned to open its outdoor area – which will house a maximum of 40 people allowing a two-metre social distancing. Customers will be asked to wear face masks, unless sitting at a table, and staff will be masked and gloved at all times, while using hand sanitiser regularly.

A statement on the pub’s Facebook page advised: “Tables will have to be reserved in advance, with the main pub door being locked. Only one person will be allowed in a toilet at a time and a two-metre social distancing rule for the queue at the door will be in place. Customers must also use sanitiser on entry.

“Drinks can only be bought and served at the table and it will be via contactless payments only.”

The statement also went as far as to advise customers they would have to “look away” when passing others.

“Customers will be asked to keep as far away as possible from those already seated at tables and when passing anyone they will be expected to look away. They will also be expected to avoid touching surfaces as much as possible and, for example, use their knee or elbows to open doors.

“The bar has sourced numerous cleaning chemicals and materials to ensure all surfaces are disinfected and glassware will be washed thoroughly and steam cleaned to sterilise.”

Pub owner Don Lawson says staff will be wearing PPE when they reopen for business on July 1st

In Inverness, Johnny Foxes pub and restaurant on Bank Street are still hoping to open from July for outdoor eating and drinking. Owner Don Lawson says he has already invested in special equipment to help keep staff and customers safe.

He said: “I’ve spent around £4,000 already in terms of screens and signage and PPE. My staff will wear protective visors and aprons – not medical ones, just black – and we’ll operate table service only for the time being.

“We’re gearing up to open come what may on 1st of July for drinking and dining al fresco. The word we’re getting is that there won’t be movement for now on two-metre distancing, but there’s still time between now and phase 3 on 15th July when it’s my belief that we will have one metre distancing for the greater good of the hospitality industry. For the time being it’s a sensible and cautious approach from the first minister.”

Other venues gearing up to reopen in the coming weeks…

Ferryhill House Hotel  – Aberdeen

As you know we have been busy getting 'Alfresco' ready at The Ferryhill and we are waiting on the green light to open…

Posted by Ferryhill House Hotel on Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Soul Bar – Aberdeen

⭐️ Food and drink in The Garden at SOUL ⭐️We have created a brand new food and drink menu for The Garden at SOUL -…

Posted by Soul Bar Aberdeen on Tuesday, 16 June 2020

The Storehouse – Foulis Ferry, Dingwall

The bothy has moved round the corner to the garden! Just in case you can’t see it! 🧁 🥓🍦🥗

Posted by The STOREHOUSE on Wednesday, 17 June 2020