Scottish hospitality businesses have welcomed the clarity brought with yesterday's roadmap announcement, giving companies dates to work towards, however the licensed trade expressed "bitter disappointment" that venues will not be able to serve alcohol indoors next month.
From 26 April cafes, restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve people outside in groups of up to six from three different households until 10pm and alcohol may be sold on its own without the need for an accompanying meal. However, indoor hospitality, which is hoped to reopen at the same time, will not be permitted to serve alcohol.
"This is not the news we were hoping for," said Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) managing director Colin Wilkinson, who warned that there remain "tough times ahead" for licensed hospitality.
"We welcome these indicative dates for reopening as they provide more clarity for businesses but overall, these slight lifting of restrictions don't go far enough and, for the majority, reopening will remain unviable," he said.
Paul Wedgwood, owner of Edinburgh's Wedgwood restaurant, asked: "If alcohol sales are the problem with people losing their inhibition when drinking, what difference does 8pm make?", while Stefano Pieraccini, director of the Broughton bar on Broughton Street in Edinburgh, pointed out that opening outdoors-only "isn't going to work for every business model".
But for those that have large, flexible outdoor seating areas such as Balgove Larder in St Andrews (pictured) it was good news and owner Will Docker welcomed the easing of restrictions and said the news was "better than expected".
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group and owner of the eight-bedroom Townhead hotel in Lockerbie, said: "It's impossible to get excited about this partial and gradual reopening, but at least we have some dates and a path towards normality.
"Hospitality played no part in the second wave and the government recently confirmed it had no evidence to justify the restrictions on the sector. Despite that, the government is persisting with two fundamental flaws in its approach to easing restrictions. The first is that alcohol is still taking the blame with no justification. The second is that there's no logic at all for the cut-off times. On both issues the industry has put forward practical, realistic and sensible proposals that balance economic and public health interests. We urge the government to review its stance on alcohol and the arbitrary curfews it is imposing.
"Also, there's no hope yet for drink-led pubs, nightclubs and others and it's essential that the government focusses more business support on this disadvantaged groups. It must also help the whole sector to rebuild after a year of devastation by launching a campaign to rebuild public confidence in well-run and responsible venues, attracting customers back to hospitality."
These sentiments were echoed by Alan McColm, managing director of the Real Food Café in Tyndrum, Stirling, who urged the government to encourage the public to travel locally.
"Although we will never recoup the losses incurred during the previous 13 months, a sustained and positive message urging people to travel and holiday in Scotland, will go a long way towards helping fund our gradual recovery," he said.
Tanja Lister, owner of the 11-bedroom Kylesku hotel in the Highlands, was more positive, and said that after a "bruising year" she was eagerly awaiting reopening. She said the messages of support and pent-up demand "carried us through this".
And Nassar Khalil, chief executive of Rogue City Hotel Group which has a portfolio including Dunalastair Hotel Suites in Perthshire, which has 32 luxury suites, said the property saw an increase in bookings within minutes of the announcement and that "it promises to be a very busy year for staycation destinations".