Reopening reactions by some of Scotland’s top hospitality businesses

Gordon Campbell Gray

Some of Scotland’s leading hoteliers, restaurateurs and bar owners have given their reaction to reopening after 4 months in lockdown:

James Thomson, Prestonfield and Witchery by the Castle, Edinburgh

James Thomson, owner of Prestonfield and The Witchery by the Castle in Edinburgh, said:

“It is both a huge pleasure and relief to be reopening Prestonfield and The Witchery by the Castle.

“The support we’ve received so far has been overwhelming – we’ve had to bring back extra staff to cope with demand as bookings have skyrocketed.”

Prestonfield has also opened a luxury outdoor dining space, including the Tea House in the garden for groups up to six people to enjoy lunch and afternoon tea, the first-floor outdoor Tapestry Terrace (four tables of four), views of Arthur’s Seat, 20 acres of private gardens and parkland, as well as the resident peacocks who join guests outside for lunch, drinks and afternoon tea.  The Witchery is now open for lunch and dinner, from 12pm-8pm, as well as overnight stays from Monday 26th April.

Scots-born international hotelier, Gordon Campbell Gray, owner of The Wee Hotel Company’s Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye and The Pierhouse Hotel & Seafood Restaurant at Port Appin, comments, “We’re all absolutely thrilled to be opening our doors again at The Three Chimneys on Skye and The Pierhouse in Port Appin after what has been a long hard Winter. On a positive note it has given us an opportunity to carry out some renovations and to reflect.

“To see the teams returning, the rooms being prepared, the kitchens coming back to life and the enthusiasm as new dishes are created is pure magic.  It is also so lovely to see all our local suppliers arriving with their freshly caught catches and produce and smiles on their faces. It has been an equally stressful time for them too and we are all hopeful that we are now truly safely back in business.

“What has added to our excitement is the level of bookings we are receiving and we are hugely appreciative to our loyal following of guests and diners   Our aim is to give them all the biggest welcome possible and to enjoy a beautiful, safe and fun experience in the glorious Scottish Highlands.   I know that is a lot of superlatives and all are valid!

“It has been tough for so many and I wish everyone in hospitality a successful return to business.

“Scotland is amazing  There is so much to explore and discover and it wonderful that we are again open for business   There is a huge welcome on the mat!”

Nic Wood, Director of Signature Group, which owns and operates over 20 bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues around Scotland, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Bridge of Allan and Aberdeen, said, “It’s with a great sense of relief that we opened 4 of our 21 bars and restaurants yesterday, the 4 that have enough space outdoors to make the operation viable. From there another three open later this week.

“I owe a debt of gratitude to my staff who have worked hard ensuring all the Covid safety measures are in place so our customers understand the continued Covid restrictions and are now delighted to see the doors opening and customers returning  in their droves.

“The rebuilding of our sector begins now. We are so grateful to our customers who have booked with us to reunite with friends and family over a meal and some drinks, I too look forward to doing the same!”

Murray Lamont, proud owner of Mackays Hotel in Wick, Caithness, on the North Coast 500, is also relieved to get back to business although the restrictions will still impact on his business. He coimments, “We still have some pretty severe restrictions to abide by. Families dining with us will have to vacate the premises by 8pm, which means that in order to have a leisurely meal they will have to be in by 6pm. This doesn’t suit everybody.

“But we’re going in the right direction. Staycation is a saviour. With the relaxation of travelling restrictions, it means we can welcome visitors from all over the UK, which is excellent, but they won’t be able to enjoy a local whisky or gin unless they sit outside, remembering this is April in Caithness.

“It also means that residents travelling north will have to arrive and dine early, which also isn’t always possible.

“With the social distancing requirements, we are far from being in a position of maximising our business. We totally respect and operate within the given guidelines so that everyone, staff and customers are safe.

“We have a wedding taking place and they will be permitted to have alcohol with their meal, but the diners in the other parts of the hotel will only have the option of soft drinks.

“It is difficult to explain the difference in regulations to locals and visitors alike of this situation.

“The supply chain isn’t without its challenges. Our suppliers have to guess how busy everyone will be and it is inevitable that we will experience some shortages until they are back on an even keel.”