Scotland

Coronavirus: Scotland reopens beer gardens and outdoor cafes as lockdown eases

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Media captionCoronavirus: Scotland's beer gardens reopen

People in Scotland are now able to return to beer gardens and pavement cafes after they opened for the first time in 15 weeks.

But customers are being warned that al fresco eating and drinking will not be the same as it was before the lockdown.

As well as following strict distancing and hygiene rules, they will have to leave their contact details so they can be traced in the event of an outbreak.

Pubs and restaurants should be able to welcome customers indoors from 15 July.

That will be part of phase three of the Scottish government's route map out of lockdown, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to confirm on Thursday.

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Business owners warned that their biggest hurdle could be persuading customers that it was safe to go out to eat and drink.

Ms Sturgeon said she had been "impressed" with safety precautions that had been put in place at an Edinburgh beer garden she visited, thanking businesses for "working hard" to prepare for re-opening.

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Media captionCoronavirus: FM says beer gardens ‘should not feel normal’

But she said her "biggest worry" was "complacency" about coronavirus setting in, and warned: "This virus has not gone away."

She said: "If you're out somewhere and there are no clear safety measures in place, you should consider leaving or not going in in the first place.

"If it feels exactly like it was before this pandemic, then something is wrong and measures are not being properly implemented."

How will beer gardens change?

Image caption Diners will be asked to use their smartphone to scan the QR code to see a menu

At the Cold Town House in Edinburgh's Grassmarket, customers must make a reservation to secure a table in their outdoor dining area.

Party sizes are limited to six people from two households and they can spend a maximum of one hour and 45 minutes at their table.

On arrival, staff will take the contact details of everyone in the group and explain various additional health and safety measures.

They will ask them how they want to be served - perhaps by someone wearing a face guard, or at a distance from the table.

Image caption Nic Wood spoke to the first minister at his venue in the Grassmarket

And they will be able to view the menu on their smartphones after accessing it via a QR code.

Nic Wood, the managing director of parent company Signature Pubs, said it was important to show customers that they were open and safe.

But he said they were facing a "huge hurdle" in convincing people to return to the hospitality industry.

"It's very worrying how quiet Edinburgh city centre, the Grassmarket, is at the moment," he added.

"Trying to persuade people to come back when they have been told to stay at home and not to socialise is the biggest job by far to overcome."

The opening of beer gardens and outdoor cafes comes after a series of lockdown measures were lifted, including the five mile recreational travel rule for all but part of Dumfries and Galloway.

Children under 11 no longer have to physically distance from each other or from adults, meaning they can now hug their grandparents.

Non-essential shops have also reopened but from Friday it will be mandatory for almost everyone to wear a face covering in stores.

The first minister has also outlined plans to reduce the 2m distancing rule to 1m in certain circumstances and with safeguards.

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She told BBC Scotland she was keen to restart the economy but nervous about relaxing restrictions.

"All of us want to see the economy moving again, all of us want to see life return to as close to normal as is possible, but that will only be possible if we all act in a way that keeps the virus at bay," she said.

"Because if it starts to run out of control again, then we have to go back to square one."

Ms Sturgeon said the outbreak in the area around Annan and Gretna in Dumfries and Galloway showed how infectious the virus was.

She said people should look out for the new safety measures in beer gardens and cafes and follow the FACTS safety guidance when out in the community.

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Image caption Staff wore protective visors as they served pints at the SWG3 beer garden in Glasgow
Image caption Tables were filling up at the Outhouse in Edinburgh on Monday

Emma McLarkin of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association said Monday marked an important milestone, but said most pubs will be waiting until the reopening of indoor areas on 15 July.

"Things will be a little different with added mitigation measures to help protect customers and ensure they feel safe, but they will still be the same places we all know and love," she said.

"We all have a shared interest in continuing to suppress the virus and the pub sector is definitely ready to play our part in welcoming our customers back responsibly."

Meanwhile planning regulations are being temporarily relaxed to allow pubs, restaurants and cafes to use areas such as public footpaths for seating and structures like open-sided gazebos.

Planning minister Kevin Stewart said the government wanted to ensure the industry could comply with distancing measures and provide a safe and pleasant environment for customers.

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