Pub beer gardens and restaurants with outdoor space could reopen 'within weeks' - here's how that might work

Published 22nd May 2020
Updated 20 th Sep 2023

On 21 May, Nicola Sturgeon revealed long term plans for easing Scotland's lockdown, which set out a timeline for pub beer gardens and restaurants with outdoor space to reopen, amongst other things.

While timings remain uncertain, the plans will be under review every three weeks, meaning pub beer gardens and al fresco restaurants could reopen in June.

Figures published on Wednesday 20 May showed Scotland's weekly coronavirus death toll had fallen for the third week in a row, with National Records of Scotland revealing there were 332 deaths relating to the disease registered between May 11-17.

Speaking about the future lifting of restrictions, the First Minister stressed: "This will be a very gradual process as we monitor how changing behaviour affects the infection rate and we will only be able to move toward easing more restrictions if we continue to work together to suppress the virus.

"Protecting lives will continue to be our number one priority - and I am confident that people across Scotland will continue to pull together in this national endeavour as we return to some kind of normality."

Progress throughout this route map out of lockdown will be assessed every three weeks - with the Scottish Government clear that the current advice to people is to stay at home, with only essential journeys permitted.

Stage one of the Government's four-phase plan to lift lockdown is scheduled to begin on May 28, with Scots then allowed to meet people from outside their own household, sunbathe and take part in some non-contact sports like golf.

What does this mean for bars and restaurants?

Phase one, which will start from 28 May will be under regular review until 18 June when a detailed review will determine if we can move to phase two, which could mean that some pub beer gardens and restaurants that have outdoor space could reopen.

These will be subject to physical distancing and increased hygiene routines.

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How might that look?

Since the announcement and publication of the route out of lockdown, many people have come up with ideas of how best to use the outdoor space for socially distanced dining or drinking.

One idea which was shared was by local architect and owner of Crabshakk, John Macleod. John's drawings show the busy Argyle Street shut to cars so that a glasshouse structure can be built outside of the streets many restaurants.

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This would ensure social distancing for diners and give restaurants and bars that don't have their own outdoor space, a chance to reopen.

John share his drawing on Linkedin along with a letter Glasgow's Lord Provost. In it, he said: "I enclose a proposal which has developed very rapidly in response to the current crisis.

"The proposal represents a possible solution both short and long term, for what is very likely to follow in the weeks and months ahead.

"The project is narrow in focus - one short strip of independent commercial businesses - but may offer solutions beyond this in other locations.

"In the short time this has come together I have canvassed as much support from the businesses affected as I can and I will continue to make the plans open for discussion in the wider community which are affected by these plans if this goes further. All businesses I contacted have expressed enthusiastic support.

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"If we can not use what is inside as much - maybe we need to claim more space outside. Roads may then be repurposed for a public good.

"If social distancing becomes the norm at least for a period - and may cyclically come and go - then we need to have plans to mitigate the commercial damage from local to global.

"Big covered spaces are everywhere but are underused and under developed in this country. The Scottish climate makes weather cover essential for an expanded public realm.

"We propose to pedestrianise the street - from Kelvingrove Street to Derby Street - and cover over like many outdoor markets. Road closure and diversion for maybe even one block only to Sauchiehall St is required. The existing wide footpaths both sides would have rain cover but be clear for public and service through traffic - pretty much as is.

"Details at this early stage are all for ironing out but if everyone feels this has to happen, all the detail can be sorted if the will is there."

The Trade association UKHospitality (UKH) has put forward proposals to ensure social distancing, which include a ban on drinking at the bar, no queuing to order drinks, cutlery and condiments no longer on tables, closure of kids' areas in beer gardens and well spaced-out tables.

Others have taken to social media to discuss potential road closures to help cafes, bars and restaurants reopen and serve customers outside.

This news comes in the same week as a range of big name chefs called on the government to to support the industry through the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to Nicola Sturgeon, top chefs and restaurateurs including Michelin starred Tom Kitchin and Martin Wishart predict Scotland could lose its international reputation for food and drink if their concerns are ignored.

“Social distancing simply does not work in most restaurants, bars and hotels. If furlough ends and restaurants, bars and hotels are allowed to reopen but with social distancing enforced and no income from major events and festivals, the result will be a tidal wave of business closures and mass redundancies, increasing Scottish unemployment and the strain on the welfare system.”, they say.

The group, which includes Scotland’s only two star Michelin restaurant, chef Nick Nairn and the famed Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye want action on key measures to save their sector.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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