Pub, hairdressing salon and museum bosses from across the north-east have spoken of their joy after plans were unveiled allowing businesses to open their doors to customers again.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed dates for phase two of the easing of lockdown restrictions at the Scottish Parliament yesterday.
From July 6, outdoor hospitality areas such as beer gardens will be able to open.
Organised outdoor sports for children will resume from July 13, and non-essential shops within indoor shopping centres will be allowed to operate again.
Hairdressers and barbers, holiday accommodation and childcare providers will then be able to reopen from July 15.
Pubs and restaurants will also be able to open on the same date, subject to physical distancing measures being in place.
And if Covid-19 cases continue to reduce, Scotland could enter phase three of lockdown on July 10.
Paul Clarkson, director of PB Devco, operates a number of venues across Aberdeen, including Soul, the Queen Vic in Rosemount and the Bieldside Inn.
He said the preparations they have been carrying out in recent weeks will stand them in good stead for welcoming customers back in July.
Paul said: “I think the main thing is we have clarification of what is happening.
“There are specific dates and we have a target for us to get organised.
“We will check what the further guidance is but I suspect we will have a lot of what we need already in place.
“It gives us another week to make sure we have all of our procedures mapped out and the staff are already well trained too.
“We are pleased the work we have done will be able to move forward on July 6 and further on July 15.
“People are still apprehensive and cautious but once they see we can operate safely with the correct measures in place hopefully we will get everybody’s confidence back for visiting hospitality venues.”
Paul said the outdoor areas at Soul and the Bieldside Inn will open on July 6 with more of the company’s venues reopening on July 15.
Ms Sturgeon also announced that travel restrictions would be relaxed from next Friday and people would be allowed to travel to second homes and self-catering accommodation on the same date.
From July 10 families and friends can meet again in extended groups outdoors and households will be allowed to meet inside properties with up to a maximum of two others so long as they are social distancing.
And during the same week dental practices can begin to see registered patients again for non-aerosol routine care.
Ms Sturgeon’s announcement that barbers and hairdressers should also be able to open from July 15 was welcomed with applause at the Scottish Parliament.
And Julie Hulcup, who owns The Collective salon on Union Street, welcomed the move to reopen businesses like her own.
She said staff will need to be wearing personal protective equipment while styling people’s hair at the city centre facility.
Julie said: “Because of the size of the salon we have managed to organise it so there will be space to have a client, then a spare seat, another client and then another spare seat. So we will have the full social distancing.
“Now we have the guidelines from the government we know what to do with towels and things like that.
“We’re going to have face shields, aprons and gloves. We’ve extended our opening hours from 9am until 8pm just to try and cater for everybody.
“Although we’ve got to be really strict with safety but we still want the client to feel pampered and enjoy it.
“We are 100% adhering to the government guidelines.”
And Rosie Robertson, co-owner of Room 7 salon in Peterhead, said: “We’re delighted about the announcement and excited to get up and running again.
“We’re planning on how we’ll be reopening at the moment and we know we’ll be installing perspex screens which will hopefully make people feel more at ease.
“We’re going to sit down virtually with everybody and work out what’s best to ensure there isn’t as many people in the salon as there would usually be.
“If we have to open for seven days we will, so we can allow people to get back to earning their money.”
Museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries will be allowed to open their doors to visitors from July 15.
Lynda McGuigan, manager at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, said while they are free to open next month they need more time to train staff.
She said the extra time will be important as they gear up to welcome back visitors for the first time in three months.
Lynda said: “I’m pleased we can open but it will be a different operation because of the rules and regulations.
“We won’t be opening until August 5 as there are a lot changes to make because it has only been me and the collections manager working here.
“I would much rather we took our time and got everything right.
“We’ll be creating a one way system around the museum and there will also be hand sanitisers and signage.”
And Alex Geddes, operations manager at Peterhead Prison Museum, said the team would have to undertake “significant work” at the attraction before reopening.
He said: “We are delighted to hear the announcement today by the first minister to confirm that museums can reopen to the public once more from July 15.
“The team will have some significant work to prepare for the reopening as we are keen for visitors to have a fantastic experience, but within a very safe environment.
“New signage and motion sensor hand sanitisers will all be in place at strategic positions, and safety screens will be in place at the admissions area to protect our valued team members and visitors alike.
“A significant increase in cleaning will be visible throughout the day to support our health and welfare drive and promotional support is also on hand from our friends at Visit Scotland and Visit Aberdeenshire who will be showcasing the area’s wealth of interesting places to visit and enjoy.
“Our commitment to safety will be paramount throughout our work and we look forward to welcoming visitors back within these walls soon.”
Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City council’s culture spokeswoman, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement today that museums and galleries are able to re-open after July 15.
“We’re working on our plans for reopening to ensure that our visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience. We’re looking forward to welcoming everyone back and will announce more details, including a date, as soon as they are confirmed.”
Meanwhile, Visit Aberdeenshire CEO Chris Foy said the changes to be introduced next month were a “much-needed boost” for the region’s tourism industry.
He said: “The announcement from the first minister gives sections of the tourism industry a much-needed boost and kick starts the beginning of a much-delayed summer season.
“With self-catering and outdoor hospitality businesses able to operate from early July, there is chance to meet demand during the school holidays. There is however a long and challenging road ahead towards recovery.”
Dental surgeries and cinemas face problems for opening
Dentists will be able to open from July 13. But Vikram Kavi from Thistle Denistry said as it currently stands the guidance is still unclear because they have not yet received advice from their own profession.
He said they are “still in limbo” until they receive more clarity although said they have social distancing measures in place for patients.
Vikram said: “The guidelines are quite vague still and we are looking for new guidelines from the chief dental officer.
“It is typical that politicians have announced something before the chief dental officer has issued any guidelines to the profession.
“We are still in limbo to a certain extent about what can be done and can’t be done. It is difficult to be a dentist right now.
“The only time we can have social distancing is to limit the number of patients being seen which is what we are doing.
“We make sure there is only one patient in the practice at any one time. There is a waiting room and they are taken to the surgery directly.”
Meanwhile, head of cinema operations at the Belmont Filmhouse, Colin Farquhar, said the venue would be unlikely to open by the specified date.
He said: “My immediate reaction was surprise. I didn’t expect cinemas to come in the same phase as restaurants and other places in Scotland, I thought it would be a few weeks later.
“For the Belmont, July 15 would be an incredibly optimistic opening date, and obviously the dates are still provisional and could shift.
“Our chief priority is safety and a lot of that will be based around social distancing measures which we will have to apply.
“We put out a big customer survey last week and advanced ticket sales only was something that we mentioned as a possibility.
“We have an awkward space compared to other cinema multiplexes and we are essentially more of a theatre.
“We don’t have a lot of room for queuing, so the more work we can do offsite the better to minimise the amount of people who are having to queue.
“Obviously that comes with accessibility issues though, as not everyone can access the internet or use a computer but it’s something we are considering.
“Another thing we have to consider is how people will be able to get to the toilet in the middle of a film, they will have to go down a row of people.”
Sport centres still have no date for opening
Sport centre bosses said they were disappointed that no date had yet been set for customers to use their facilities, saying residents were “desperate” to get back into centres, gyms and swimming pools.
After taking a “first, cautious step” by allowing elite athletes back on their outdoor track, Aberdeen Sports Village chief executive Duncan Sinclair revealed hopes the whole site can reopen to the public in phase three of Scotland’s lockdown easing.
He explained: “I think operators like ASV will be allowed to open in phase three. My speculation for that is late July, maybe early August.
“I do think there’s a slight inconsistency in opening up some sectors before others, but the government – the Scottish Government in our case – are trying to get the balance between reopening the economy and keeping citizens safe.
“But I think there is a huge volume of evidence to say sports centres and gyms should be opening earlier than perhaps they’re planning to.
“There’s a great desire from people to get back and get physically active. People and operators, like ASV, have been innovative with home workouts, but there are a number of surveys now saying people are desperate to get in to sports centres, gyms and swimming pools.”