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Covid curfew is 'too simplistic', say Banffshire hospitality businesses

By Lorna Thompson

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BANFFSHIRE hospitality businesses face more anguish after the Scottish Government imposed new temporary restrictions to try to stop Covid-19 running out of control.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés are set to lose desperately-needed holiday trade as they contend with a 6pm curfew, set to last until October 25. Until that date only food and non-alcoholic drinks can be served indoors. Pubs and hotels can serve alcohol until 10pm but only outdoors.

Wayne Stewart owner and chef at The Knowes Hotel, Macduff. Picture: Becky Saunderson.
Wayne Stewart owner and chef at The Knowes Hotel, Macduff. Picture: Becky Saunderson.

Banff's Deveronside Club has closed its doors completely for the full 16-day period, and will not reopen until October 29.

As a licensed premises driven not by alcohol sales – but rather as a social hub for community support groups – the clampdown will hurt its customers most of all.

Banff and District Councillor John Cox, the club's operations manager, said the rules had "guillotined" its activities and would hit the many people who relied on the venue for some social interaction.

John Cox.
John Cox.

He said: "We look forward to seeing the detailed evidence this further period of restrictions will take us closer to phase four. We've put up with seven months of constraints and these new measures are just pushing us back.

"We may be 'all in this together' but what I see are the consequences, not just on the hospitality trade but on the supply chain – the fishermen, fishmongers, florists, taxi drivers, farmers, the list goes on."

Cllr Cox said the venue was closed as it would have virtually no custom on the criteria set by the Scottish Government.

He added: "Once back to normal we will have a good and exciting future, but we can't operate being closed at 6pm.

"The concern is that 16 days could become 32 days, 48 days ...

"But we'll be ready to welcome our customers back on October 29."

Wayne Stewart, owner and chef at Macduff's Knowes Hotel and Restaurant, said the Scottish Government needed to take a more localised approach to virus restrictions.

Wayne Stewart owner and chef at The Knowes Hotel, Macduff. Picture: Becky Saunderson.
Wayne Stewart owner and chef at The Knowes Hotel, Macduff. Picture: Becky Saunderson.

Following the First Minister's announcement Wayne saw 100 bookings for Saturday night wiped out – and was left instead with 20 Saturday afternoon bookings. The average number of covers for a Saturday night is around 60-70.

He said: "I think the Scottish Government have 'lost the dressing room'. We're taking a backward step.

"The approach needs to be taken region by region. There is no evidence to suggest we need a 6pm curfew in this area. This to me is a lazy decision – it's too simplistic.

"I fully agree that if cases go up here we need to close our doors. But this is too harsh and will be catastrophic for areas which haven't even got many cases.

"Local councillors and MPs should be getting together and putting forward a case for our area."

Owners of The Old Kirk Cafe and Bistro, at Fordyce, are turning their focus back once again on the takeaway trade as they try to weather the storm.

Chris and Alison Temple have reduced the number of tables in their converted church premises to four and had been operating a bookings-only system to stop extra footfall.

Chris said: "My main concern is we have actually had to remove our safety measure of bookings-only to accommodate these changes and to keep trade.

"I think people will just be thinking 'let's get these three weeks out of the way and then we'll go out'."

Chris is now building two log cabins in the Old Kirk garden to provide safe dining for family groups.

The owner of Banff's Fife Lodge Hotel, Linda Thomas, said the business, like the majority in hospitality, had felt the effects of Covid-19 "in no uncertain manner". The hotel will be running a "FiverFest" promotion throughout the 16-day period.

Linda said: "Instead of spending too much time looking at the negatives, we feel it is most worthwhile to look at what we can do and what service we can provide for the local community in this difficult time.

"We are increasing our service hours to offer breakfast, brunch, lunch and high teas, punctuated by morning and afternoon teas – all in carefully monitored, socially distant surroundings.

"Perhaps most importantly, we are immensely grateful to all those loyal customers that have continued to support us through these difficult times and all the key workers that have allowed us to continue trading.

"As Captain Tom put it, 'Things will get better', and it is so important that as many local businesses as possible are still there when they are better."

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