Inspections will have been completed at all but one of Aberdeen’s “high risk” businesses by lunchtime – ahead of bars, cafes and restaurants opening for the first time in three weeks.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ruled all venues must be undergo the “really important” checks before reopening as a condition of her lifting the local lockdown on Sunday night.
But her government and the council have been sending conflicting messages on environmental health officer (EHO) checks in the days since, as the local authority even briefed business bosses on a lack of legal power to enforce closures beyond today.
Last night a spokesman for the council’s environmental health team said: “We do not anticipate preventing any businesses from opening.
“The one ‘high risk’ premises we have not been able to contact will be visited to ensure is not trading.
“There is information going out that ‘low risk’ businesses open if they have engaged with us.
“We are progressing through the phone assessments and have given an undertaking these will be completed by Friday.”
He also promised EHOs would be scouring the city for businesses which have not been in contact with the council, but had started trading again anyway.
He said officers would “intervene to ensure compliance”.
Aberdeen’s hospitality trade has only just been cleared to reopen today after three long weeks, having been closed by government decree in an effort to get a grip on an outbreak of coronavirus traced through the city’s nightspots.
So far, 261 people have been linked to the outbreak.
In line with other parts of Scotland, casinos and bingo halls will also be allowed to reopen today.
Yesterday the first minister doubled down on the importance of EHO checks ahead of customers returning to Aberdeen venues, after The P&J reported the council advising businesses they could do without them.
At her daily briefing Ms Sturgeon said: “The council were part of the discussions on Sunday so yes, it is the position hospitality businesses in Aberdeen should only open tomorrow if they have had the appropriate checks from environmental health.
“I’m not going to tell environmental health officers exactly how they do their job but that the appropriate check is undertaken.
“And that’s really important so we know before we open up hospitality again that the right measures are in place to minimise the risk of transmission.”
And Ms Sturgeon urged any businesses who had not yet been contacted by the local authority to come forward themselves.
It follows the advice of council environmental health officer Alison Robertson, who told a council-arranged hospitality seminar on Monday that there was “nothing to stop you legally from reopening once the lockdown is lifted on Wednesday”.
She said: “Don’t panic if you haven’t been contacted, just think about the measures you need in place and have them before reopening.
“If you haven’t got them, give yourself a bit more time.”
Throughout the two-hour trade meeting, the council stated a number of times EHO checks were not required before reopening.
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden played down the differing stance saying he did not “see it as big issue”.
Last night he added: “Most of the premises around the city have been contacted and are well aware of the situation.
“Some aren’t planning to open but we are confident all those that are have either been contacted and assessed them or EHOs will make arrangements to do so.
“I would encourage people to act responsibly if they go out today and remind them they still have to adhere to social distancing rules.
“The message is there is still a pandemic, it hasn’t gone away.
“I would like to thank the environmental health team for making sure the city can open again today: it’s taken hundreds of phone calls and visits to hundreds of premises.”