A north-east nightclub owner has welcomed back music and dancing as the majority of restrictions in Scotland end on August 9.
Following a Holyrood briefing on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon announced that restriction easing will go ahead as planned on August 9.
And Club Tropicana and Private Eyes owner Tony Cochrane has welcomed party-goers back to his Aberdeen and Inverness venues, saying: “We will make it as safe as we can – but just come back and enjoy yourself again, enjoy life.”
The First Minister’s announcement means that August 9 will mark the end of curfews and social distancing in Scotland – however face masks and Track and Trace will still be required.
‘Nobody could dance for a year-and-a-half’
Speaking of the long-awaited move, Mr Cochrane said: “It’s been around 500 days of closure; it just feels like the end’s finally come.
“Nobody could dance for a year and a half. We were the only country in the world that stopped music, even when you have got a pandemic or something that is going on that is negative, music and dancing gives you a little bit of natural medicine – but that was taken away from people.
“It was a grave place for a long time, it’s just a big release.”
The nightclub owner says that despite being left “high and dry” in terms of funding, he and his team “have to bounce back” saying: “We’ve spent a life time trying to build it up, lucky thing is we have always saved for that rainy day.
“But who would have thought that rainy day would have been 500 days long, but we will get through it.
“It’s been something personally I’ve done since forever, there’s never been a weekend when I’ve not been involved in some sort of entertainment.
“It just takes away a whole part of your life and something you enjoy and you’re passionate about.
“The staff are all ecstatic to get back to a job they enjoy, that was their life every weekend and suddenly it just stopped back in March.
“We will make the place as safe as we can because we obviously don’t want anything to happen to anyone in the venue – staff or customers.
“The only downside is the question about masks having to be worn inside – that is a strange one. Everything is as normal otherwise.”
Andrew McRae, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses says that business owners will feel “a cocktail of elation and worry” following the First Minister’s announcement.
He said: “Firms will be relieved that the bulk of the remaining restrictions will be lifted. This will give many businesses the opportunity to increase capacity, create jobs and drive growth.”
However, Mr McRae noted that while most restrictions will end next week, the move won’t guarantee the recovery of either an individual business or the local economy.
‘Debt for years to come’
“Operators now face trading conditions permanently changed by the crisis and new debt that they’ll need to manage in the months and years to come. Some business leaders are nervous that the sacrifices they’ve made will be forgotten,” he added.
Mandatory physical distancing in shops will also end on August 9, with hopes from retail bosses that it will “spark a shopping recovery” following on from a very difficult year.
However Scottish Retail Consortium head of policy Ewan MacDonald-Russell, says that while removing restrictions “should simplify store operations”, many retailers are likely to keep some existing restrictions to ensure safety.
“Hopefully the changes for events and hospitality should give customers a good excuse to return to the high street to restock wardrobes and homes; albeit that may be tempered as there is no timeframe for workers to be encouraged back to the office,” he added.
Theatres were also able to start planning their return as Aberdeen Performing Arts announced they are preparing to re-open doors in the autumn.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Aberdeen Performing Arts said: “We welcome today’s announcement from the Scottish Government, and are continuing to plan and prepare to make sure our audiences and staff are as safe as possible, as we prepare to re-open our doors this autumn.
“We are seeking further clarity on government advice to ensure that we can work within the current recommendations.”
In terms of tourism, the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) say they have welcomed the First Minister’s announcement and say it is progress towards normal trading for the company.
Scottish Tourism Alliance CEO Marc Crothall said: “This is very much the news that our industry has been hopeful to receive for some time and comes with a few weeks of the summer season left to perhaps recoup some lost earnings and get businesses into better shape for the next few months as we move into the shoulder season.
“It is however important to highlight that with so many trading weeks lost and the requirement for debt to be repaid, the need for support for tourism and hospitality businesses cannot be overlooked; it will indeed be some time before businesses can become financially sustainable although today’s news marks that huge step forwards after the most difficult period for Scotland’s tourism industry.”
CBI Scotland Head of Policy Gregor Scotland however said that “getting more customers through the door is just the tonic they need to make the most of the final weeks of summer and trade their way to recovery.”
He added: “Moving beyond level zero to remove the vast majority of Covid restrictions creates a much-needed platform for kickstarting Scotland’s economic recovery.”