Time to close Edinburgh bars that put Capital’s hospitality trade at risk - Liam Rudden

WALKING through a sunny Grassmarket the other day, you would hardly have known we were in the midst of a pandemic.

Saturday, 15th August 2020, 7:30 am
Enjoy a pint safely

It all started well enough, a socially distanced queue waited to get into one of the larger venues on the approach to the famous thoroughfare.

The Grassmarket itself was bustling and as full of energy as ever... it didn’t feel safe.

There’s no doubting the hospitality sector has taken one of the biggest hits during the Covid-19 crisis - bar and restaurant owners saw their entire income disappear over night. Now as restrictions relax, many are slowly returning while others have already closed their doors for good. A second lockdown would prove the final nail in the coffin for many more. Which is why I fail to understand the inability of some bar and restaurant owners to grasp the onus of the responsibility they now share.

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That trip through the Grassmarket was an eye-opener - some outlets had ensured all staff were masked and gloved, others had opted for face screens (the effectiveness of which is now widely questioned), however, at some it appeared to be business as usual. No face coverings at all.

As one restaurateur said to me shortly after Aberdeen found itself in the middle of another lockdown, “It’s the pubs that will close us all down again”. A sweeping statement, and one that doesn’t reflect the efforts of every pub in the city, but I understand his frustration. Restaurants appear better at ensuring they’re Covid aware.

I know one restaurant owner who has their staff’s temperatures checked before each service as well as numerous sanitising stations and Perspex screens at the bar. He has also introduced table service and QR codes on menus so you never need to touch them.

Contrast this with the experience I had earlier this week when, briefly, visiting one Edinburgh pub. Yes they had a clipboard for track and trace along with an industrial bottle of sanitiser on entry, but that seemed to be it and no one was enforcing their use. Staff wore no PPE whatsoever, no gloves, no masks and while tables were spaced, people were wandering to the bar to order and, at one point, three people were queuing to pay at the till - again, no masks, no distancing.

There’s no excuse and, hopefully, the new legislation put into law yesterday will be robustly enforced, after all, if other businesses look after their staff and customers, why should others be allowed to put all their livelihoods at risk.

Needless to say, I made a quick exit, which I suppose is what we all have to do in the current climate. It’s time to vote with our feet. If a venue isn’t abiding by the regulations, don’t give them your cash. If you do, it’s only a matter of time before we are back in lockdown and, surely, no one wants that.

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