Bars, hotels and eateries across the north-east are working hard behind the scenes to make sure they’re ready to safely welcome their customers back.
The Scottish Government has told tourism businesses, including pubs, hotels and restaurants to prepare for reopening on July 15, when the country hopes to move into phase three of its route map out of lockdown.
And watering holes across the region are gearing up welcome people back through the doors, and looking and how they can operate while implementing social distancing measures.
Paul Clarkson, operations director with PB Devco, which owns a string of premises including Soul on Union Street, said: “We’ll be implementing social distancing measures that I think will allow people to safely enter the premises.
“At the moment I’m in the middle of planning for the outdoor areas opening and I’m also taking into consideration indoor areas at the same time.
“Soul on Union Street has a beer garden which will open in Phase 2, and outdoor areas at the Bieldside Inn will be hopefully opening too.
“The announcement doesn’t come as much of a surprise but it’s fantastic we can make plans to start to move forward and hopefully try and welcome customers back.”
Meanwhile, Siberia Bar and Hotel want to invite guests in from Thursday July 30.
The 16-room operation was fully renovated at the start of 2020 but has been shut due to the pandemic since March.
Ardoe House general manager Chris Hodgens outlined some of the extensive hygiene measures being carried out and explained how the building would be reconfigured to get the most out of the space while adhering to social distancing.
He said: “We’re in the middle of deep-cleaning the whole hotel, we’ve brought a team in to do it and it will take around six weeks.
“As soon as the deep clean is finished we’ll start a disinfection process, we’ve teamed up with a company who will do a fully automated disinfection to a log 6 reduction level, which is actually used in the medical sector to sterilise hospital theatres.
“There will be hand sanitising stations all throughout the hotel, and we’re currently trying to move all heavy touch points in the bedrooms such as TV remotes, telephones, menus, guest directories and trying to put that all on a digital format.
“Luckily we have lots of outdoor space here and we’re also lucky with the indoor space – we have big function halls which won’t be used because big gatherings aren’t allowed, so we can do social distancing in there for the restaurant.
“Next year is looking promising. Nobody has really cancelled their weddings and events, they’ve just postponed.”
“Staff will have gloves and visors.
“We’re happy that we have a date to work towards now, and we have plans to make the hotel as safe as we can for both staff and guests.”
A spokeswoman for McGinty’s Group said: “We welcome the news and we are delighted that we now have a target date to work towards.
“It goes without saying that the environment is going to be different but we are working very hard behind the scenes to prepare for social distancing measures and increased hygiene procedures across our venues.
“With that we being said we are hopeful that the Government will publish a full guidance for our industry as soon as possible so we can be fully confident that we are ready to open the doors when we get the green light.”
While larger venues are able to adapt relatively easily to social distancing, more compact bars like the Red Lion on the Spital will have a harder time.
Manager Jono Tosh said the bar would definitely be reopening, but that the capacity could be cut from around 130 to not much more than a dozen people.
A full refurbishment is currently under way at the pub, which Jono said he plans to get finished before turning his attention to how best to implement social distancing measures.
He said: “I’ve turned the bar upside down. I’m renovating it at the moment. I’ve used the time to spruce up the bar.
“I don’t know if we’ll open on July 15. With a bar that size it’s not really financially viable to open up for six folk coming in and having a few pints.
“We’ll definitely be reopening, we’ll just have to see what like.
“We’ve got a back garden. We did think about opening it but for folk to get there they have to go out on the street, and we’ve got neighbours and their gardens back on to ours.”
The refurbishment work ongoing at the moment included new carpeting, and seating reupholstered.
Jono said: “I want to get everything renovated first and that way it’s out of the way.
“The social distancing side of things won’t take long. It will be a case of let’s see the space we can use.”
Around six to eight people will be able to safely fit in the main bar downstairs, and the upstairs area will also be opened to accommodate at least another six to eight.
Jono said: “We’ll definitely use that. It makes it a lot easier.
“It will be table service. We’ll have to find a door bell for people upstairs.
“We don’t want to put up screens and stuff and de-normalise the pub experience but folk will have to be a lot stricter.
“We really don’t know how it’s going to work. It depends how people react to it.”
Colin Cameron, who owns the Kirkgate Bar, The Bridge and Masada, said his bars will all open on July 15 if the go-ahead is given.
He said: “The Kirkgate Bar and the Masada have applied for use of the space at the front.
“I’ve applied because I wouldn’t mind being open a couple of weeks before.
“I haven’t heard back to say no so I’m kind of hopeful if not this weekend maybe next weekend we might be able to take advantage of that.
“We’re certainly all set for July 15. I’m all set and I’m sure the punters are.
“We’d love to think it might come down from two metres to one metre. If it does, it might not double the capacity, but it could add half again.”
Colin said, as his pubs were open at the beginning of the pandemic before lockdown forced them to shut, the staff were well versed in the additional hygiene measures now required.
He said: “We had a week of washing hands, hand sanitiser, washing tables before lockdown.
“A guy will not get a pint until he’s washed his hands.”