Fife pubs adapt to new safety routines, but fears of second lockdown linger

Most pubs are working hard to ensure the new safety rules are followed.Most pubs are working hard to ensure the new safety rules are followed.
Most pubs are working hard to ensure the new safety rules are followed.
When Scotland finally gave bars and restaurants the green light to reopen after months of lockdown, many of the measures which would need to be put in place seemed rather dramatic compared to how things had been before the pandemic struck.

But with more than a month of operating now behind us, do we now have a clearer picture of what’s working and what isn’t?

While most bars and restaurants are following the safety protocols, there are some which don’t seem to be making much of an effort.

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Could this lead us to an Aberdeen-style scenario where a second lockdown is put in place?

With some smaller pubs receiving no help from government schemes, there are concerns for the future of the industry.

Brian Gordon is President of the Fife Licenced Trade Association (FLTA).

He also runs the Springfield Tavern, and says that generally publicans are working hard to make safety measures work.

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He said: “I have two doors, with a one-way system in operation, but sometimes people forget, so keeping reminding people is the problem.

“Things like tables that you put out of bounds, I haven’t got anywhere to put them, so I’ve been putting big signs up saying ‘not in use’.

“Sometimes people sit there so I have to ask them to move. It’s not easy.

“The toilet sneaker-inners, that’s the problem. I can’t see both doors at the same time.

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“If someone has run into the toilet, and we don’t pick-up on it then we can’t do the clean-down after they’ve been.

“All the handles, seats, and tap-heads all need to be cleaned.”

Brian says there is concern in the industry for the smaller pubs, which don’t serve food and won’t receive any help from government schemes involving VAT on meals or the ‘eat out to help out’ initiative.

He said: “The wet-led pubs are suffering the most.

“With social distancing the numbers allowed in have fallen dramatically. If they don’t get some sort of financial help again soon then they’re really going to struggle.

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“The small places are in serious trouble of disappearing,– we’re talking about our heritage here.

“When they go, it will be a major loss.”

With regards to the bars where safety measures are not being enforced, Brian has a strong message for pub-goers.

“Everybody knows annecdotaly about the places where they’re doing it all wrong.

“What I’d like to see is if people go somewhere that they’re not doing it properly; vote with your feet, and tell everybody.”

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But with Aberdeen going back into lockdown, Brian said that pub-owners in Fife are concerned about the prospect of having to close again.

“It really could be anywhere.

“I can’t do a Christmas menu because I don’t know what’s going to happen. If I start taking bookings then I could fall afoul of what comes next.

“Everybody has restocked. All the stock that pubs had to throw away the first time, it’s a loss, it’s gone. But if there was a second lockdown, that would be catastrophic.”

For John Wilson at Betty Nicol’s, on Kirkcaldy High Street sticking to the rules is crucial to ensure customers feel safe and are likely to return.

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“We’ve been quite strict on it,” he says. “Business is down dramatically because of social distancing, we’ve lost 65 per cent of capacity, but we’ve got to maintain distancing because if anyone starts flouting the regulations we’ll end up getting everybody closed down.

“You’ve got a health and safety responsibility to your staff and customers.”

He says that customers have been quite happy to stick to the guidelines.

“We’ve had no problems, our customers have been respectful of what we’re asking them to do.

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“They’ve all been quite happy to be compliant with the regulations, and any comments we’ve had on social media have just been positive, saying that they’re glad to see we’re taking it responsibly.”

But while John takes great care to stick to the rules, he says he is concerned that those who aren’t adhering to the guidelines arepotentially putting the industry at risk.

“We all hear about some places which haven’t really changed anything since reopening,” he says.

“I don’t want people that are not prepared to abide by the rules.

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“I do get worried when I see people on social media that they’ve been to a pub that I know isn’t following the guidelines. If they’ve been there for three hours and show up here then it’s concerning.”

And it’s for this reason that he feels Fife is as much at risk of a second lockdown as any part of the country.

He adds: “It could happen here, there’s every chance it could happen everywhere.”

In Burntisland the Sands Hotel reopened with a greater emphasis on the outdoor seating area, which allows for easier social distancing.

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Manager Jason Borthwick is pleased with how post-lockdown pub operation is working.

“I think the majority of customers have bene understanding on onboard with it all,” he says.

People want to feel safe.

“It’s been fairly well-received.

“We were social distance serving.

“We had tables next to our customers that we were putting food and drinks on and some people just wanted their food now.

“So now we ask people ‘are we ok to serve at your table?’.

“We still keep our distance and we don’t reach over people.

“The customers all go along with what needs done. They all sanitise and follow our guidelines, so we’ve not had any issues.

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“People know that they have to follow the rules. If our other customers see that not being the case then they won’t feel safe and they won’t come back.”

But Jason does think some changes could be made to guidelines.

“I think all the things in place for safety are quite right.

“The one thing that I don’t agree with is the background music. It creates atmosphere.

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“I agree on no karaoke or live music, or loud music, but background music is exactly that.

“I think lack of atmosphere could be a factor, especially when all summer people have been renovating their houses and gardens to make them nicer places to be or built mancaves and whatnot.

“They might just say ‘back to mine, I’ve got the pool table and we’ll get the tunes on’.

“That is a fear in the trade that people have been used to drinking at home and the initial buzz of getting out may wear off as the atmosphere’s not what it was in bars.”

And what about the future for the industry?

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“We’ve been trading well. We’re fortunate we have quite a big space here. the help to eat out is good, we’d like to see that extended.

“I do fear for the future for smaller places in the industry.

“The eat out scheme doesn’t help, the VAT scheme doesn’t help, and they don’t have the space to distance and still get numbers.”

So it seems like most pubs have adapted well to the guidelines, but only time will tell how these will affect the industry.