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Music venue in limbo due to Covid guidelines confusion asks to be used as trial site

Caroline Campbell, director of The Ironworks
Caroline Campbell, director of The Ironworks

A major music venue in the Highlands has been left in limbo due to confusion over whether it can re-open under Covid-19 restrictions.

The Ironworks in Inverness was told it can resume business as it is in a tier one area.

But its doors remain closed while it seeks clarification on what kind of events it can host under pandemic guidelines for the events sector, which are being updated.

Bosses have now asked the Scottish Government to make it a test venue to trial live music events with social distancing in a tier one area.

Ironworks director Caroline Campbell said the venue was given the go-ahead to re-open this week for small seated events but was still left waiting for clarity on what that meant.

She said: “Unfortunately, despite raising questions with both Scottish Government and Highland Council, no clarification has been received from either.

“So we are currently in a position where, yes we can open, but until clarification is received we are effectively not permitted to do so.”

She said the venue has not qualified for Covid-related grants during lockdown.

The venue boss added: “As an employer of 61 staff with rent and many other outgoings to fund I urge policy makers to share clear guidelines with me urgently so we can understand what is possible.

“Given our unique situation and our innovative ideas for delivering small events in a socially distanced manner, we have offered our venue as a pilot site for tier one compliant cultural events.”

The venue has plans to host local acts, when permitted, with capacity reduced from 400 seats to either 80 or 150 depending on guidelines.

Alan Yates, Highland Council’s environmental health manager, said: “Whilst we understand that small indoor seated events are to be permitted within level one of the Scottish Government’s new strategic tier system, the associated Covid-19 guidance for the events sector has yet to be updated to reflect this change.”

He said guidance will be issued shortly on what types of indoor seated events are allowed within the different tiers.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Ironworks has faced unimaginable challenges this year – we understand the burden Covid-19 has placed on them and are very grateful for their efforts to help tackle the pandemic.

“We are aware the Ironworks wants to open its doors, and we are currently preparing guidance which we will issue as soon as possible which will allow it to do so.”

Meanwhile, cinema chain Vue has announced it will temporarily close its Aberdeen and Inverness venues from tonight.

The company is shutting all of its locations across the UK due to England going into lockdown today.

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