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Music ban 'kiss of death for restaurant ambience'

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland News

Published
image copyrightMatthew Bailey
image captionMatthew Bailey in his 300-seater restaurant in Mortonhall Garden centre in Edinburgh

Restaurateurs and hoteliers in Scotland are calling for a ban on background music to be lifted saying it is the "kiss of death" for the atmosphere in their premises.

Owners criticised the rule, which came into effect in Scotland on 14 August, saying there "was no logic" to it.

The rule is in place so people do not have to lean in to be heard.

The Scottish government said there was an increased risk of Covid transmission when people raised their voices.

James Thomson, owner of The Witchery restaurant and the five star Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh, said the blanket ban was "ridiculous".

image copyrightPrestonfield House Hotel
image captionJames Thomson in his five star restaurant, Rhubarb, at Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh

He said: "This is a nonsense for restaurants. No size fits all. Very loud music in nightclubs could cause people to lean in to each other but in hotels and restaurants background music adds a little bit of ambience.

"Having no music at all is the kiss of death in terms of atmosphere for us and there is no logic behind such a blanket ban.

"At five star level we work on a two-metre distance all year round anyway so this background music ban is just ridiculous.

"We need background music to kill the deathly hush as people feel they have to start whispering when a restaurant is quiet. Diners want to eat out in a place with atmosphere not a library."

image copyrightDominic Crolla
image captionDominic Crolla, director of La Locanda in Edinburgh's Cockburn Street, said he did not understand why the rule covered restaurants

Dominic Crolla, director of La Locanda off the Royal Mile in Cockburn Street, said he did not understand the music ban rule for restaurants.

He said: "I understand people might have to lean in to be heard in a nightclub but background music should be allowed in restaurants.

"The ban is a disgrace, I get it for nightclubs, but for restaurants it's ridiculous.

"My customers come to hear classic Italian music while enjoying Italian food but now the atmosphere is ruined with this ban.

"They are just guessing and it just doesn't add up."

Rod Dos Santos, manager of Southern Cross Cafe in Edinburgh's Cockburn Street, said the music ban was "ridiculous".

image copyrightRod Dos Santos
image captionRod Dos Santos, manager of Southern Cross Cafe in Cockburn Street, said the music ban was "ridiculous"

He said: "We either operate fully or not at all. What are they going to do next, tell us we cannot serve coffee?

"Customers expect to experience what they have done previously. This is a ridiculous situation.

"Background music is a talking point and customers are often asking me what band is playing in the background and it starts a conversation, which is what I love."

Matthew Bailey, general manager of Mortonhall Garden centre which has the 300-seater Topiary restaurant, said he had already cut his capacity by a third to comply with social distancing measures.

He said: "Music brings ambience and creates a nice mood. Soft music creates a nice atmosphere and stops the restaurant feeling clinical.

"It enhances the atmosphere in the current climate where people are more uptight and sombre. It softens the mood and relaxes people.

"We should be allowed to play background music as it creates a feeling of harmony."

image copyrightGoogle
image captionNo music is played in Edinburgh's The Standing Order, which is owned by Wetherspoon

Meanwhile Eddie Gerson, spokesman of Wetherspoon, which owns 75 pubs in Scotland, said he stopped playing music in his premises 14 years ago.

He said: "We don't go with the crowd so we don't have music in any of our premises.

"Our customers are used to it and like it. We have shown you don't need music to run a pub."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "We don't want the restrictions in place for any longer than is needed, but in order to continue to suppress Covid-19 the clinical advice remains that pubs and bars should have no background music or volume from TVs.

"This is because of the increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets when people raise their voices.

"We continue to monitor this and are working closely with the licensed trade to develop updated guidance based on the best public health advice to keep people safe."

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