Coronavirus in Scotland: 'It is absolutely going to be crippling for the sector' - hospitality industry reacts to new government regulations

An Edinburgh restaurant owner has made a passionate plea for a change in the rules after the latest “bombshell” guidelines on hospitality.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 6:40 pm
Updated Monday, 19th April 2021, 7:16 pm

Carina Contini, co-owner of Contini restaurants, has spoken out about the latest guidelines that ask venues to ensure people from different households be seated one metre apart from each other, even if they are at the same table.

Ms Contini, speaking on Good Morning Scotland on Monday, said: “So up until last Friday we were feeling really optimistic, we're feeling positive.

"And then at 6pm on Friday, guidelines, and further, further reports – I mean there's so many I can't even, I'm not even read them all yet – have been released and thrown us an absolute bombshell.

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'It is absolutely going to be crippling for the sector': Hospitality industry shocked at new government coronavirus regulations

"I mean [it’s] an absolute impossibility in terms of being able to open.

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"So the bookings that we've already got … we'll have to phone up and say ‘I'm sorry, we can't honour your booking because we know can't host this level of capacity’.

"Then suppliers that we've committed to … we're gonna have to phone up and say ‘I'm sorry, we can't buy this level stock because we won't be able to sell it’, and then the team that we've given jobs to, we're going to have to force them up and say ‘I'm sorry, we just do not have a role for you’.

"It is absolutely going to be crippling for the sector.”

Ms Contini co-owns a company that runs restaurants on George Street, Castlehill and in the Scottish National Gallery.

She continued: "If I was catering for six people at a table, I'd have to have a table that's three-and-a-half metres long.

"There's not a restaurant supplier in the country that makes tables that are three-and-a-half metres long.

“I mean, elderly customers who may be hard of hearing, they're gonna have to FaceTime themselves over lunch because the distance is just so far away.”

Hospitality venues are preparing to reopen outside areas next Monday in the latest stage of the road map out of lockdown.

Six adults from six households are currently allowed to meet up.

These latest guidelines were released on Friday night, and Ms Contini is not the only restaurateur to be expressing concern.

Celebrity chef Nick Nairn, who runs Nick’s on Henderson Street in Bridge of Allan, said: “If I can’t do the same number of covers, I don’t need the same amount of staff.

"We've assumed we're going to be busy, so we've recruited staff.

"When do I tell the staff I don’t need them? How much food do I order? Am I going to do 120 covers or am I going to do 80 covers?

"At what point is it worth doing at all and we just stay closed until they relax regulations a bit more?

"Maybe I’m worrying wrongly, but I want someone to tell me because I can’t open my business until I know.”

Edinburgh restaurateur Paul Brennan, who runs Dine above the Traverse theatre and Dine Murrayfield cafe, said clarity was needed.

He said: “Unfortunately when you're trying to get the information you require, it's actually quite hard to get and some of it is conflicting.”

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, stressed the guidance published by the Scottish Government was a draft.

She told Good Morning Scotland: "It is extremely important that the sector have the opportunity to comment, to express their concerns and to see what is feasible for them.

"I imagine the reason the 1m requirement between different household members is in place is to provide additional protection, but the government has to balance up additional harms at the moment."

The First Minister will be hosting a press conference on Tuesday and is expected to address the concerns of the hospitality sector.

A note attached to the guidance states: “This is draft guidance and may be amended subject to comments received to take into account engagement with stakeholders.”

The Scottish Government were contacted for comment.

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