Scotland lockdown in chaos over definition of cafes

9 October 2020, 10:24 | Updated: 9 October 2020, 10:45

By Asher McShane

Scottish businesses have told LBC they have no idea if they are allowed to stay open or not with just hours until new restrictions come into effect this evening.

Cafes can keep offering sit-in service without alcohol, while restaurants have to close for at least 16 days from 6pm tonight - but there's confusion over the difference between the two, with licensing chiefs saying there is no difference whatsoever.

Many firms have been forced to seek legal advice on what type of business they are while they wait for the Scottish Government to provide a definition.

Read more: Scotland lockdown changes - explained

Scotland faces new hospitality rules from 6pm tonight
Scotland faces new hospitality rules from 6pm tonight. Picture: PA

Stephen Montgomery from the Scottish Hospitality Group told LBC that if legal experts don't know, how can businesses possibly be expected to adhere to the rules.

"Here we are, at the 11th hour before new regulations kick in. We've got businesses that are seeking legal advice on what kind of a place they are, the lawyers don't know what kind of a place they are, because Scottish government doesn't know what they are," he told LBC.

"I think it's imperative the Scottish government decide what is a cafe and what isn't a cafe so businesses can begin preparation for what they will need to do for the legal side of these restrictions."

There is confusion over the new rules imposed by Nicola Sturgeon
There is confusion over the new rules imposed by Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA

Elaine Derrick from Glasgow's Viceroy Bar said: "I feel gutted because I do think she's [Nicola Sturgeon] is very wrong.

"An awful lot of the drinking is done through house parties. Perhaps she should have thought about closing down the drinks aisles in supermarkets. Even at the 10 o'clock thing, a lot of people were leaving at quarter to ten to get to the supermarket to buy drink."

From 6pm today, Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes outside the central belt will only be allowed to operate indoors between 6am and 6pm and not serve alcohol, though drinks can be served until 10pm in outdoor areas.

But pubs and licensed restaurants in five health board areas - Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley - will be forced to close for all but takeaway service for 16 days from 6pm on Friday.

The temporary measures are set to end on Sunday October 25.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed on Thursday that cafes can be exempt from the central belt shutdown if they do not sell alcohol, triggering confusion about how a cafe is defined.

Other changes include shops being asked to return to two metres physical distancing and the reintroduction of earlier measures such as one-way systems.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association posted on Twitter: "Absolutely ridiculous that on the day new regulations come into force we still do not know what licensed premises in the central belt will be allowed to open till 6pm for food only - shambles.

"What is a 'licensed cafe?' Find out maybe today!"

In the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman told MSPs the measures are a "balance" and "targeted at those situations where the virus has the best chance of moving from one person to another".

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said although the Tories reluctantly support the new restrictions, they will be "catastrophic" for the hospitality sector and its supply chains.

Mr Cameron said: "Given the need for compliance and buy-in from the public, it's imperative that there is clarity about what people can and cannot do.

"Further confusion has arisen today over whether cafes with alcohol licences can open. And if they can't, how do you define a cafe versus a restaurant versus a pub?

"The SNP Government must clear this confusion up because business owners need to know whether they can open in two days' time."

Further measures impacting the five areas of central Scotland will be imposed from Saturday, including contact sports for adults aged 18 and above are being suspended for the next two weeks - apart from for professional sports.

Indoor group exercise activities will no longer be allowed, however gyms can remain open for individual exercise.

Snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling, casinos and bingo halls will also close and no outdoor live events are allowed in these five areas.