'We have sat quietly for long enough. For god's sake, just let us open'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Operators across Wales and Scotland are rejoicing that they are finally allowed to serve customers once more, as restrictions are lifted in both of the devolved nations.

In Scotland, restaurants, pubs, cafes as well as shops, gyms and swimming pools are reopening after a four month lockdown beginning in late December 2020.

Pubs and restaurants will be able open indoors until 8pm, but will only be able to serve alcohol to customers seated outdoors, and unrestricted travel to and from the other devolved nations is once again allowed. If all goes according to plan, on May 17th, businesses will be allowed to serve alcohol indoors until 10:30pm, and by June 7th this should be extended to an 11pm close. 

In Wales, pubs, cafes and restaurants are just reopening to customers outdoors after five months of closure; they are set to reopen indoors from 17 May in line with their English counterparts, but this will depend on how case rates evolve.

But as patrons are delighted to be visiting hospitality venues again, restrictions continue to apply financial pressures which make it difficult to operate profitably. 

In an interview with Edinburgh Live on the weekend, Michelin-starred chef and vocal spokesperson for the Scottish hospitality industry Tom Kitchin said:  "I've stayed quiet until now out of respect for how serious the virus is and the people who have died, but now I've had enough. This is ridiculous."

The chef deplored the effect of ongoing restrictions on Scottish businesses - the curfew, the outdoor-only alcohol-rule, and the fact that the Scottish government has so far been unwilling to put a date on when all  will be lifted. 

"I see what this is doing to people, I know people who have committed suicide, it's absolutely tragic." 

"I am fed up, the debt that myself and this industry face now is insane."

The chef is opening his restaurants despite his certainty that he will be operating at a loss, because, he said, "I have a duty to my suppliers to try and get this economy moving again.

"I buy a lot of fish and a lot of meat and I know that these guys are hurting. I know how much they are hurting because I've seen the tears in their eyes."

Threatening the loss of artisanal produce and independent restaurants that make-up the character of Scottish hospitality, the chef fears that visitors could soon come to Scotland only to find a succession of chain establisments.

The knock-on effect of restrictions on supply chains is real, he said, and this would simply cause an accumulation of debt that it is nearby impossible to recover from. 

"This is not about Tom Kitchin," he said. "This is about all of the little restaurants across Scotland that are going to have to close."

Finally, the chef called for a review of the rules which would actually protect people, rather than leading people to act wrecklessly in accordance with them. 

"Look down south: you are just creating a binge culture, everyone is going to be outside getting smashed, all sitting outside hugging each other, when you could just have it in a controlled environment.

"Even if you are in a restaurant where you are not allowed to drink indoors, what do you think is going to happen? We know Scotland, they are going to go inside the restaurant, go back outside, neck two pints or three glasses of wine, then they are going to come back inside to have their starter. What is the logic here?

"You are going to see what we saw in Soho, it will be like a carnival.

"There is no thought process, it's just abysmal."

Are you a restaurant operator in Wales or Scotland? Are you reopening today? What are your thoughts on the ongoing restrictions and how they will impact your business? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 26th April 2021

'We have sat quietly for long enough. For god's sake, just let us open'