Being allowed by Government to open outdoor areas won’t be the saviour of our pubs, bars and restaurants.
Following the First Minister’s announcement today that, as from tomorrow, we are now moving into Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s Route Map out of the Crisis, the timeline for Phase 2, where “pubs, bars and restaurants can open outdoor spaces with physical distancing and increased hygiene routines”, looks like being the 18th of June, if things stay on track.
Of course, businesses want to get up and running as soon as possible but will these first steps, for those who have an outdoor area or the potential to have one, actually help businesses to start recovering from this pandemic?
Engaged by the Licensed Vintners Association & the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland and in partnership with Hospitality Ulster and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, Consulting Engineers were engaged to assess the potential reduction of occupancy numbers in Licensed Premises as a result of current physical distancing rules and reduced physical distancing rules.
The results were deeply concerning with potential reductions in capacity as high as 87% if the 2m social distancing parameters are maintained – click here to download full report.
With all the current talk in the trade on allowing outdoor areas to open, the example layouts used in the full report could be replicated for outdoor areas. However, for those outdoor areas on public pavements the capacity level would be even lower as businesses would need to effectively have an “exclusion zone” from the cordoned off barriers, unless the barriers were roughly 1.8m high, to the first row of tables to allow for 2m distancing from pedestrians walking past.
The light at the end of the tunnel is perhaps a bit brighter with talk now of reducing the social distancing parameters. If 2m distancing is to be the set parameter, viability is undoubtedly in question, 1m might just make the difference in business survival, but there are still other issues that will need to be addressed no matter what the distance is set at.
The only thing that might completely extinguish this flicker of hope is the reaction of councils, licensing boards and planners to allow businesses to make the most of what they already have, or the potential they have, in providing an outdoor area for customers.
Costs and the application process alone bring hurdles, not to mention rumours that some councils may impose a reduction in the size of current outdoor areas to facilitate pedestrian compliance with social distancing.
Customer confidence is another huge issue for the industry. With a recent poll conducted for BBC Scotland, to gauge how people feel about life post lock down, revealing that 62% of people are unlikely to return to bars and restaurants for some time yet, the industry needs all the help it can get and needs it now.