THE owner of an award-winning restaurant in Helensburgh has denounced the sluggishness of Scotland’s plans for a route out of lockdown.
Will Smith, who runs the Sugar Boat in Colquhoun Square, said the Scottish government’s approach was’ too cautious’ and said he was’ confused as to why Scotland seems to insist on reopening more slowly than the rest of the nation ”.
Mr. Smith spoke to Advertiser after Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled details of the Scottish Government’s updated framework for the country’s exit from lockdown.
But other than the planned reintroduction of a “tiered” restriction system in late April, details were scarce on when owners of restaurants, cafes and pubs nationwide might be able to reopen their premises to customers.
Some companies, including the Sugar Boat, have offered take-out and / or delivery services on a limited basis during all or part of the pandemic, but restaurants across Scotland are closed to all customers on site. in since December.
READ MORE: How Scotland’s ‘policy framework’ compares to England’s roadmap out of lockdown
Mr Smith said: “These blockages are long and difficult both mentally and financially.
“I need to reopen my business, to exchange ideas and to welcome people again. It is in my nature to offer hospitality and I miss it a lot.
“While the grants and vacation funding that have been provided to me by the state are welcome, they are not enough to pay my ongoing monthly expenses.
The sugar boat on Place Colquhoun
“The safety of my team and my guests is of course the priority, but I find the central government’s approach to be too cautious.”
The Sugar Boat was named Scotland’s Best Restaurant at the AA Hospitality Awards in 2019.
He was also named as one of 27 new Bib Gourmand award recipients in this year’s Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland.
READ MORE: Loch Lomond tourism ‘set to lose £ 500million’ due to pandemic, industry expert says
Mr. Smith continued, “These decisions seem to be easily made by people who do not have the responsibility of running a business and paying employees and continue to receive their own wages.
“Vaccines are rolling out at high speed and I don’t understand why Scotland seems to insist on reopening more slowly than the rest of the nation.
“Any local resident would have seen how the city’s hospitality industry took on the challenge of Covid when it was allowed to trade with tracking and traceability, safe distancing measures, masks from the get-go, verification of temperature, signage, etc.
Many restaurants in Helensburgh continued to offer take-out and / or delivery services during the lockdown while the premises remained closed to seated patrons.
“To sum up, I am extremely concerned about the future and totally frustrated. Roll on vaccines.
Meanwhile, Cara Nikolic, who runs three local restaurants – La Barca, Cattle & Creel and Padrone – with her husband Milan, said extending the UK government’s leave program was vital for hotel businesses to remain viable.
The plan is currently due to expire at the end of April.
READ MORE: Plans for new waterfront restaurant in Helensburgh approved by council officials
Ms Nikolic said: “I understand that we will initially move to level 3, which in the old system meant that licensed premises closed at 6 pm and did not serve alcohol.
“We currently have over 40 employees on leave or flexible leave and the restrictions mean there simply won’t be enough hours of operation for everyone to make a living.
“It is therefore essential that, as is assumed, we see an extension of the holiday while trade is restricted.
“We are extremely grateful to all of the customers who have supported us and helped us continue this winter.
Milan and Cara Nikolic
“I’m sure there will be a lot of ‘leftovers’ this summer as people’s confidence grows to go out and move again.
“We’ve come this far; we just need to break through the thresholds and then we’ll see the rebound we’ve all been waiting for.
Vivien Dance, Managing Director of the Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce, said: “Tourism and hospitality is a major industry for our country which interconnects with many other types of businesses and the lack of visitors and customers for many months has spread to a wide range of traders, especially the smaller self-employed.
READ MORE: Key points from this week’s coronavirus lockdown exit plan for Scotland
“There is no doubt that we are facing an uphill struggle to rebuild our local economy when we finally unlock, the problem is easy to identify, the solution does not come so easily.”
Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday: ‘I know how tough the current restrictions are after 11 long months of this pandemic, but they are working and now we can see how we get out of them.
“We’re in a much better position now than at the start of January, and these steps are the first steps in a slow, but hopefully stable, return to much greater normalcy.
Restaurants, pubs and cafes in Scotland do not yet have a specific date to reopen for seated customers
“Our intention remains to remove the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to get back to more normal lives for as many people as possible.
“For now, and for a little longer, we have to rely very heavily on the restrictions to remove the virus. This is essential when the virus is so transmissible and when the number of cases is still quite high.
“The policy framework is being deliberately cautious at this point but in the coming weeks, if the data permits and the positive trends continue, we will seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions.”
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