Significant restrictions will be brought in to law today which will have an impact on the operation of hospitality businesses across Scotland.

Amongst the headline points is the absolute prohibition on venues selling alcohol for consumption indoors in a hospitality setting.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Additional Temporary Measures) Regulations 2020 were introduced today and will from 6pm this evening (9th October 2020) significant temporary legal restrictions will be brought in.

The rise in cases of Covid-19 in recent weeks means that the restrictions are divided in to those which apply to all areas of Scotland except those which are in the Central Belt.

In this note we aim to give you guidance on how these changes will impact you as either an owner or operator of a hotel, restaurant, pub or café and also around taking new bookings.

It will also be helpful for anyone who is about to embark on an October holiday to coincide with the Scottish school holidays.

Guidance on travel has also been given by the Scottish Government.

The regulations have not been without controversy and the definition of a café caused much speculation. It is defined as “an establishment whose primary business activity, in the ordinary course of its business, is the sale of non-alcoholic drinks, snacks or light meals, which may be consumed on the premises”.

The definition of light meals is of course open to interpretation. The view from the Scottish Government is that if a business is in doubt as to whether or not it is a café, then it needs to seek guidance from the local authority environmental health officers. In the absence of such advice the First Minister feels that these businesses should take a responsible decision and close to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

It is clear from the briefing given by the First Minister and the National Clinical Director immediately after the regulations were published that the Scottish Government expect business owners to act responsibly.

Since the First Minister made her statement in the Scottish Parliament on 7th October there have been significant representation from industry bodies and business representatives who feel there has been a lack of consultation ahead of these changes. At First Minister’s Questions on 8th October there was a concession in terms of allowing licensed cafes to open in the Central Belt provided they did not sell alcohol.

Policing the regulations will be a task for local authority Environmental Health teams and Police Scotland.

It is clear the Scottish Government hopes that business owners and operators will apply common sense in their interpretation of the regulations. They want to limit indoor contact to hopefully reduce the transmission of Covid-19 and whilst there is undoubtedly scope for operators of restaurants to fall within the definition of a café the expectation is that businesses will not do this. Those who do risk an enforcement visit.

Click here to read the full guidance.

What should you do next?

Check the terms of your licence to ensure what you are permitted to do falls within the terms of your licence.

If in doubt seek advice there are penalties for non compliance.

Look out for further announcements from the Scottish Government. As has been the cases here only 48 hours notice of these changes was given, and even then the Statutory Instrument setting out the legal position was published less than 6 hours before the changes come in to effect.

Next steps

The next steps in these regulations will depend on whether or not they improve the situation around the spread of Covid-19 in Scotland.

The regulations followed on from an evidence paper prepared by the Chief Medical Officer, the National Clinical Director and the Chief Nursing Officer.

How can we help?

This note is provided for your assistance in these unprecedented and fast moving times.

It does not constitute legal advice and it is provided on the basis that it does not create any duty of care or liability on our part.

If you require specific advice, one of our experts would be delighted to assist.