Licensees concerned about the interpretation of recently published Hospitality Guidance are calling on the Scottish Government to issue guidance to Licensing Standard Officers, Environmental Health Officers and police with regard to the policing of said guidance Following reports that LSO’s and EHO’s are being unnecessarily heavy-handed.
Although Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work and Culture has written to trade organisations assuring them that, “Ministers have made it clear that the rules on physical distancing have not changed. ”
The confusion came after the publication of methodology which suggested an increase in social distancing rules with the requirement of a 3.5m table for 6 guests from 6 different households. However, the First Minister on 20th April emphasised there was actually no change to the restrictions from last year except that hospitality operators would be required to post their capacity under the social distancing restrictions and take details of all customers for contact tracing.
However licensees we have spoken to from across the country – from Aberdeen to South Ayrshire, Edinburgh to Glasgow are reporting overzealous LSO’s and EHO’s who are insisting that premises further adapt the way they are operating.
Licensees would like to see a letter going to regulatory authorities similar to that sent out by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick in England, he asked local authorities to be cautious with regard to adopting an “overzealous interpretation of distancing rules at tables.” He added a “disproportionate regulatory approach” was in danger of driving people towards insecure and “possibly illegal activity”.
But although Fiona Hyslop Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work and Culture has written to Scottish trade bodies in an effort to reassure them suggesting that it had “not been the intention” to ask “businesses to adjust their premises with different rules.” There has been no apparent effort made by the Scottish Government, similar to that of the UK Government, to ensure that regulatory bodies do not interpret the social distancing in a manner that proves detrimental to hospitality businesses.
Fiona Hyslop also suggested that the new Physical Distance Based Capacity (PDBC) was intended to “be illustrative rather than prescriptive and aimed to provide a framework for public settings, in general, to consider how many people can safely physically distance in any given space.”
She concluded, “We recognise the confusion and concern which has been caused by the lack of clarity around this … this guidance does not change the guidance which many businesses have been working to since last year.”
It is also understood but not confirmed that the EHO has told trade groups that “There are no rules whatsoever on table size.” Adding, “As long as those from different households maintain 1-meter distance size does not matter.” But whether than message has filtered down to EHO officers remains to be seen.
But it is certainly not straightforward indeed licensing lawyers have pointed out that capacity will be variable depending on the size of the bookings.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group said, “We’re reassured to hear that what premises did last year will still be acceptable this year. All the sector is wanting to do on Monday is to be able to open in a safe, happy and welcoming hospitality environment.
The dates for opening:
26 April: mainland Scotland and islands at Level 4 are expected to move to Level 3. Islands at Level 3 will remain there until 17 May
- 17 May: all of Scotland will move to Level 2
- 7 June: all of Scotland will move to Level 1
- June (late): all of Scotland will move to Level 0