The planned reopening of beer gardens and outdoor seating areas in the hospitality sector has been described as a “glimmer of hope” for pubs – although hoteliers are seeking further guidelines on operational limitations.
The Scottish Government unveiled a phased lockdown exit strategy which will see bars across Aberdeen and the wider north-east allowed to open beer gardens and outdoor areas.
That move is part of phase two in the four phase plan.
Paul Clarkson, operations director at PB Devco, which owns a string of bars across the city, including Soul on Union Street, welcomed the news.
He said: “It’s definitely a glimmer of hope that we’re starting to turn the tide and hopefully try and come out of this crisis.”
“I’ve stayed in touch with the general managers of all the venues, we just had a Zoom chat the other day. We’re very keen to get our tape measures out and work out floor plans and see what we can do.
“It’s absolutely welcome news. We definitely need to start getting back into some form of normality.”
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Mr Clarkson said the hospitality sector may need to invest money in new outdoor furniture to operate during the second phase.
He said: “Certainly Soul for us in the centre of Union Street probably got the biggest outdoor area and we’re going to be looking at measuring that up and seeing exactly how we can maximise the potential of that.
“We’ve got to adapt and look at the new normal.”
Mr Clarkson added the announcement came as a “lifeline” to businesses stuck in limbo not knowing when or if they would be able to reopen.
Colin Cameron however, who owns the Kirkgate Bar, The Bridge and Masada Bar, was less positive.
He said: “My first reaction is I’m not particularly happy because none of the three pubs I own have an outdoor area, and I think that view would be shared by most of my colleagues.
“In Aberdeen you could count on one hand or maybe two the number of bars that actually have outdoor areas.
“There’s not an abundance of beer gardens or outdoor areas so that’s not going to go down well with the pub trade and punters.
“I would say that’s a non-starter, not thought out.”
Stephen Gow, vice chair of the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels’ Association, raised concerns about the lack of detail available for the opening of hotels after Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement.
He said: “It’s good that today sees the beginning of a route map out of restrictions, however it is difficult to plan for reopening hotels when there is still no definite date for this, nor any guidelines on any operational limitations when hotels do open.
“For some of our member hotels the news that outdoor space can be reopened as part of phase two is welcome. Those that have outdoor space will have to weigh up the costs of reopening at a time when their income will be restricted but the requirements around staffing will be proportionally increased.
“However, we should remember that most city centre hotels, by the nature of their location, have no outdoor space, so this will mean that they will have to wait until phase three for any income.
“There still seems to be, at this stage, a lack of clarity around events; and when hotels will be able to begin holding events such as dinners, weddings and conferences again.”