Today marks the reopening of hospitality across Scotland with beer gardens, al fresco dining and indoor dining all open for the first time in four months.
And restaurant bosses and publicans across the north and north-east will open their doors, both indoors and outside, to customers eager to get back to support the industry.
Reopening in Level 3, the guidelines allow for alcohol to only be sold outdoors in beer gardens until 10pm, with indoor venues closing at 8pm and not allowed to serve alcohol.
Beer gardens near me
Find beer gardens in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire with interactive map
Find beer gardens in the Highlands and Moray with interactive map
Beer gardens up and down the country have busy rosters lined up for the next few weeks, with hundreds of people booking in to make the most of the start of the good weather and being able to enjoy a drink at venues again.
In Level 3 the “rule of six” applies to those venues operating outdoors with up to six people from six households allowed to frequent businesses under one booking. However, one metre social distancing must still take place, which has forced many owners to only allow four people from different households so they can socially distance at their tables.
Meanwhile, indoors, hospitality will welcome up to six individuals from two households.
While the public is eager to get out and support hospitality, venue managers, owners and staff are equally as excited to be welcoming customers back.
Reopening with a new offering
Andrew Stephen, restaurant manager of No.10 Bar & Restaurant, is eager to get the venue open again. Its beer garden has undergone a refurbishment, transforming the space into a botanical garden which will serve up a range of new drinks, including frozen gin cocktails.
Following the government guidance as previously issued, Andrew says the main focus for the venue is to continue to provide a high quality, safe service.
He said: “We are led by government guidelines in this respect. Much in the same way as last time, social distancing is going to play a big part in our lives forever, so we’ll make sure all of the walkways, tables, benches and chairs are spaced out to the correct measurements.
“Staff will all be wearing face masks for serving customers and the customers coming in or moving around the venue, it is imperative that they wear a face mask. Once they are seated it is fine and they can take it off and socialise and have a great time, but if they do get up or move around they must wear their mask.
“We’ve got all of our risk assessments in place to make sure we’re following all of the guidelines on those as well. There’s hand sanitiser and we’ll be sterilising everything once it has been used. Those are the key factors. Track and Trace is obviously a big one as well, so everyone who walks through the door, we’ll take their details and record that as well in case there’s any issues.”
Having experienced an additional closure when Aberdeen was placed into a localised lockdown at the tail end of last summer, Andrew is hopeful locals will come out to support the venue.
“The last four months have been very difficult. I think everyone has found it difficult, especially the time of year it happened in. In the winter months it isn’t ideal and it took its toll on everyone. The staff here are desperate to get back to work,” said Andrew.
“The last year in general has been good during the times we could operate. We were very, very busy when we were open and we got a lot of local support for the place. We didn’t have any issues at all. Unfortunately we did have the local lockdown as well so we did miss the tail end of summer sadly, but we made good use of the time that we had and we’re looking forward to getting back open again!”
Getting back to it
The past year has been challenging for the industry and getting staff back into a routine and working with customers is something Andrew himself is most looking forward to.
He added: “We’re definitely looking forward to reopening. It will be nice to have a purpose to get out of bed in the morning. I feel a bit lost not having a job as such, a glimpse into what retirement may be like, but I’m really looking forward to getting open again.
“We’re going to be busy from the offset as booking for the first couple of weeks are totally jam-packed so we’re going to be really, really busy. The weather looks like it is going to be good as well, so that is going to play in our favour.
“It will be nice to welcome back all of our regular customers. It has been a tough year for everyone and we just want to see everyone come back and welcomed them. The staff here are desperate to see the customers and their happy, smiley faces as well, and to give them the service and food they are used to and just hopefully put this last year behind us. It is about positivity and moving forward in the right direction.”
Investing in new concepts
In Aberdeenshire, Carol Fowler, director of Banchory Lodge Hotel who has been with the hotel for nine and a half years, is feeling very enthusiastic about reopening and is hopeful this is the last time the country will have to come back out of lockdown.
She said: “We’re reopening in Level 3 and the guidelines have remained as the same level we closed in so I have already got Track and Trace in place, the difference is we now have to track every person, not just the lead booking person.
“We are obviously implementing social distancing between tables, people and families and we’re opening a new extended patio so that we have additional outdoor dining. We think al fresco dining will be a big trend and that more people will want to dine outside. We’re really excited about reopening and unveiling it to the public.
It will nice to have a purpose to get out of bed in the morning. I feel a bit lost not having a job as such, a glimpse into what retirement may be like, but I’m really looking forward to getting open again.
Andrew Stephen, manager of No.10 Bar & Restaurant
“We’ve got our new ‘seatooterie’, which people can dine and drink outdoors in and we’ve also got a pop-up beer garden, which is open at the weekends from Friday to Sunday. It is just for people to be able to enjoy the views of the river, maybe enjoy a beer with a pie or some cocktails. It is a bit of fun for us relaunching the hotel. There’s lots of opportunities and different ways for people to come and enjoy the hotel.”
After a catastrophic 13 months of ups and downs due to the pandemic, the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit by the restrictions on operating.
Carol added: “It has been catastrophic, however we want to look forward and not look back. We have done it, we have been there, and hopefully this is the last lockdown we’re going to come out of. It is very expensive for us to lose money every month we’re closed and we lose more money closing and reopening. I’d rather not look back on last year.
“We are so excited to be reopening. I can’t stop smiling and I can’t wait to get the doors open again to do what we do best, hospitality. Our team are so excited to be welcoming our customers back and they just can’t wait.
“I’m really looking forward to just seeing the customers. To be able to see them and serve them will just be wonderful.”
Innes Bar in Inverness
In the Highlands, Inverness publican Craig MacLeod, who owns Innes Bar, says seeing locals and friends of the bar is what he is most looking forward to, having missed them for the past four months.
He also admits the support from Star Pubs & Bars, which is the pub side of the business of Heineken UK, has allowed the venue to invest in the future.
He said: “We’re definitely looking forward to opening up. It has been a long time and although we have kept ourselves busy, we have missed all of our regulars, the locals and our friends of the bar. Of course we have lost a few of them during this through one thing or another so we will raise a glass to them on the first evening. We have missed all of our regulars and our friends.
“The last four months have been relatively difficult like every other business has. We have managed to do a lot of work within the bar and a lot of renovations.
“Luckily because we are a part of Star Pubs & Bars we have had a lot of help from them and a lot of rent concession which has enabled us to invest into the bar and hopefully the future.”
Covering all the bases when it comes to safety, all staff have been fully trained ensuring everyone is well-versed in the restrictions and guidelines in place.
He added: “We have done all we can to prepare at the moment to hopefully make everyone feel safe when they come to the Innes. We’ve covered all the guidelines by the government and when you arrive hopefully it will be for a pre-booked table and as soon as you come in the door you’ll be asked to wait. There’s an app there which you can scan on your phone and log into the bar. We’ve also got plenty of sanitation spots with hand sanitiser around the bar.
“We’re very lucky that we have a good bunch of staff behind us who are all still with us. We have been looking forward to welcoming them back and going through all of the changes with them. There has been a little bit of extra training for them before we reopen today but I know they are certainly looking forward to getting back to work and seeing all of their friends again.”