Bars and cafes will be allowed to open up outdoor seating areas for the first time in many months today as lockdown restrictions are eased.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last month that businesses in the hospitality could start welcoming back customers this month.
The owners of venues in the north-east have spent thousands of pounds preparing for the restrictions being lifted with social distancing measures, hand sanitiser, screens and contactless payment systems now in place.
However, the first minister urged residents to socialise safely as beer gardens and pavement cafes reopen across the country following a warning from police in England that drunk people will not stick to the rules.
Anyone visiting such outdoor establishments will also be asked to provide their name and contact telephone number to the business as well as logging the date and time of their visit as part of Scotland’s test and protect system.
Staff at The Bieldside Inn have erected a marquee for outdoor dining.
Anyone visiting the premises will have to register their details using QR codes.
Assistant general manager, Charlotte Wood, said: “We’re really excited to be reopening again. It’s been really good seeing regular customers during our takeaway service but it will be great to actually look after them properly and get back to some sort of normality.
“We’ve been taking bookings online and over the phone and we’ve had a lot of enquiries.
“We have a one-way system in place and we also have a QR code for contact tracing. Everybody who comes in has to register and the same applies to staff.
“We also have a two-metre distance between all of our benches and we’re going to have to make sure nobody is going between tables or swapping tables.”
The Bennachie Lodge in Kemnay will open its beer garden to the public from 11:30am today.
Manager Sandy Elrick said: “We’re expecting it to be busier at night than during the day.
“We have a booking system in place and we have 25 tables available for booking.
“We have been following guidelines and making sure that one-way systems and other safety measures are in place.
“Staff have all been fully briefed and are now Covid-compliant and they know what’s going on.
He added: “We are very lucky that we have a huge open space for our beer garden.
“We didn’t have to do much to convert the space outside because we have already done a lot of work on the space throughout the year for music events.
“I’m excited to be reopening but quite nervous. It will be good to see a lot of the old faces again and we’re looking forward to welcoming them back.”
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A major easing of lockdown measures in England this weekend also saw pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas open their doors under modified social distancing rules but the occasion was marred by chaotic scenes on Saturday night.
Police Federation chairman John Apter, who was on duty in Southampton, reported dealing with “naked men, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights and more angry drunks”, while there were several reports of officers being assaulted.
The Scottish Government is expected this week to confirm whether two metre social distancing may be reduced to one metre, with additional safeguards, in a bid to help more businesses reopen.
But Mr Apter warned it was “crystal clear” revellers could not or would not adhere to the “one metre plus” rule already in place in England.
Speaking during a visit to a terrace pub in Edinburgh ahead of the reopening on Monday, Ms Sturgeon said sacrifices made by the public in Scotland had already helped to suppress the virus and protect the health service.
She said: “I hope as we take these first gradual steps out of lockdown people will begin to feel more of the sense of normality that we have worked so hard for, although it is important to remember that the virus has not gone away so we cannot get complacent.
“No beer garden or cafe should feel the same as it did before. The vast majority of the hospitality industry will be following the rules and putting in place new procedures to help control the virus.”
The Scottish Government is expected to publish further guidelines for the sector this week and it is anticipated phase three measures will also be announced, possibly as early as Thursday.
Ms Sturgeon added: “People should look for those safety measures and be aware of the need to follow the facts at all times when out in the community.
“If you don’t see those safety measures, or you don’t feel you can follow appropriate hygiene rules, than don’t take the risk.
“If we continue to stick to the rules we will be able to drive the virus down further and live less restricted lives in the weeks and months ahead.
“Until then support local businesses if you can, socialise safely and make sure that while you enjoy yourself you also protect others.”
The reopening of the hospitality sector was welcomed by Stephen Montgomery, president of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.
“We understand that there will be changes in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19 which we are sure customers will understand,” he said.
“We would encourage customers to keep to physical distancing measures and work with premises to ensure public health is maintained, including providing staff with contact details to support test and protect.”