As Scotland’s phased return from lockdown gets underway, Craig Hoy, East Lothian’s Scottish Conservative Candidate, has proposed a package of measures designed to help local hospitality businesses begin their recovery.
With phase two set to allow the early opening of cafes, restaurants and pubs which can cater for customers outdoors, Hoy has set out a number of measures which could ensure their survival and accelerate their recovery.
Under the terms of the Scottish Government’s phased end to lockdown, pubs and restaurants can open outdoor spaces with physical distancing and increased hygiene routines in phase two, which is likely to start in late June, but will have to wait longer to open indoor spaces.
In a letter to East Lothian Council Chief Executive Monica Patterson, Hoy warns that many businesses face tough times ahead as he proposes a number of measures to boost the sector.
He says: “As you are aware many of our pubs, restaurants and cafes face unprecedented challenges and some bodies predict a significant number of closures in the coming months. While the system of grants and the furlough will help these operators through the period of lockdown, their future survival rests on them being able to get back to business, even if this is markedly different in nature to what has gone before.”
Hoy, who also represents Haddington and Lammermuir ward on East Lothian Council, proposes that the local authority considers lending its support to measures which could include:
- Offering assistance to businesses to identify public areas adjacent or close to their hospitality premises to provide outside space for socially distanced business operation.
- The promotion of outdoor community markets, such as the Haddington Farmers’ Market, where socially distanced retail and social engagement can be achieved.
- The fast-tracking of licences and temporary road closure applications to allow hospitality premises to extend their outdoor operations, providing the measures do not negatively impact local residents through excessive noise or Anti-Social Behaviour.
- The temporary opening of Council parking facilities to the general public to overcome any short-term reduction in parking as cafes, restaurants and bars develop socially distanced on-street seating areas.
- Leveraging existing community funding schemes to meet the costs of licences and other statutory requirements businesses will need to meet before expanding operations outside.
- Sourcing and facilitating the loan of equipment, such as tables, chairs and marquees to achieve temporary or semi-permanent outdoor expansion, utilising council maintenance teams to carry out remedial or preparatory works.
- Exploring the use of funding streams, such as Local Area Partnerships, to buy and provide equipment such as gas burners which will allow businesses to operate through to the “Scottish summer” and into the Autumn season.
- Connecting local operators with other agencies and stakeholders, such as the major sporting facilities and events organisers, who may be able to provide equipment and assistance to East Lothian hospitality and retail businesses.
- Developing close liaison with community wardens and local community police officers to ensure temporary outside areas are adequately monitored for noise and Anti-Social Behaviour.
- Promoting collaboration with local charities and community volunteer groups such as Haddington in Bloom, the Blooming Belters and North Berwick in Bloom, to enhance the development of temporary outside spaces for social and retail purposes.
Hoy says that maintaining capacity in East Lothian’s hospitality sector will be vital to restore tourism in the medium to long-term and he is encouraging council colleagues to engage on the issue.
Councillor Jeremy Findlay, who as a Member of the Connected Economy Group leads for the Conservatives on Economic Development, which includes tourism, says: “To support the return of domestic and international tourism when the time is right, it is vital that we maintain a thriving hospitality sector in East Lothian. Here in Scotland’s Golf Coast many jobs depend on our tourism, sport and leisure sector and it’s essential that the Scottish Government and East Lothian Council do all they can to support the sector through these difficult times.”
In his Haddington ward, Hoy has already identified the area outside of the Corn Exchange, the road to the front of the Waterside Bistro, the area outside the former George Hotel and locations near the Poldrate Centre and John Gray Centre as sites for temporary outside use.