Our  year in lockdown: Kirkcaldy pub looks to bistro model to re-start business

The protective boards are almost ready to come off the distinctive front of Betty Nicols’ pub in Kirkcaldy’s Merchants’ Quarter.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 1:00 pm
Betty Nicol's, High St, Kirkcaldy (Pic: George McLuskie)

But it won’t just pick up where it left off when lockdown effectively mothballed the hospitality trade.

John and Nan Wilson, proprietors, have spent the time reviewing their business model.

They anticipate social distancing measures will be here until Spring 2022 – that means 90 fewer customers from their capacity which will impact on their sales.

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They will not be re-opening until Fife is in level 2 and believe the earliest possible date for this is May 16.

In the interim, John and Nan revealed they have plans to offer bistro food.

They said: “Pre Covid we had a great steady bar with excellent function business at weekends in our bistro. Whilst working hard to retain our regular bar business, we need to look to replace lost function business in the bistro, until social distancing measures are no longer in force.”

They added: “But, we have no outdoor facilities, opening for food without alcohol will not be viable for us.

“We are going to be doing Bistro food from 5:00pm until 9:00pm on Friday and Saturday, plus continuing with our popular Sunday lunches until 6.30pm , to try and replace lost weekend functions.

“Although no longer a requirement to serve a meal with liquor when we eventually reopen, we are going to continue to focus on daily bar meals whilst developing menus for weekend dinners.

“Many customers are looking forward to dining out with a nice wine or a special cocktail, so we need to be ready to meet this demand. We are currently refurbishing the bistro, plus we have completed the bar redecoration we started last winter.”

Regulars will see a refurbished bistro, and newly decorated bar - and key to it all is the support of local people.

“We hope the licensing authorities actually monitor that our industry is in fact observing the protocols,.

"A few cowboy operators can push virus cases back up and risk further lockdowns for everyone.

"Our industry is going to rely on the support of the community, without which, we could lose more bars and restaurants forever.

"After the first lockdown our staff found returning to work with the new Covid protocols a challenge. The second lockdown may have impacted heavier, due the length of time and it being over winter.

"We are planning training and operation meetings to gradually acclimatise the team back into work mode.

We expect the vaccine roll out will help to reduce the spread of Covid 19, but we’re not sure at what stage that coverage will be sufficient to see all Covid restrictions removed.

"For the purpose of business planning we have anticipated Spring 2022 - many of us in hospitality will face a battle to survive until that time due to the loss of sales as a result of social distancing in particular.”

They added: “Although excited about reopening, we are anxious of the unknowns that could await us.

"Our industry really does face a challenge surviving until all Covid restrictions are lifted. We will rely on the support of those who enjoy socialising and dining out, we need our regulars more than ever.”

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