Reopening boost for shops but bar owners unhappy
Pubs will only serve alcohol outside
Non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and gyms were today given the go-ahead to reopen next Monday, though there remains concern that some firms will remain vulnerable.
Businesses that went into lockdown on Boxing Day will join hair salons, click and collect services and homeware shops which were allowed to resume on 12 April.
Non-essential travel between Scotland, England and Wales will also be allowed for the first time this year.
All local authority areas which are under level four restrictions will move down to level three.
Retailers will be encouraged by today’s trading update from Primark which reported footfall back to pre-pandemic levels in the week since shops reopened in England and Wales.
More than half of the stores broke their own sales records, it added.
While shops and leisure venues look forward to resuming business, pubs and restaurants across Scotland are still concerned that they will not be allowed to serve alcohol indoors. They argue that they provide a safe environment with figures for coronavirus outbreaks below 4%.
Many that do not have outdoor facilities fear they will shut permanently unless there is a relaxation of the rules.
There are also safe distancing rules indoors which some owners say are too restricting and will not make it viable to reopen. People from different households will have to remain one metre apart.
Some say they will have to cancel bookings because they no longer have the capacity expected.
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today that contrary to some media reports there have been no changes to the distancing restrictions.
Funerals and weddings – including post-funeral events and receptions – will be allowed to take place with up to 50 people and alcohol permitted.
Taking shape: St James is close to opening (pic: Terry Murden)
The reopening of retail will whet the appetite of shoppers two months ahead of the opening of Edinburgh’s £1 billion St James Quarter.
It was due to welcome shoppers and visitors to its food court last October, but the date was pushed back to the Spring because of the pandemic. The latest opening date is 24 June.
The new hotel at the St James Quarter now clearly visible (pic: Terry Murden)
Edinburgh is also due to welcome the first visitors to the new Johnnie Walker Experience at the other end of Princes Street this summer.
Diageo released first images of the ground floor of the eight-floor attraction, which occupies the former House of Fraser store at the corner of Princes Street and Hope Street.
New retail manager Alan Thomlinson will bring his 25-year management experience from House of Fraser’s Jenners and West End stores to the establishment.
The new Johnnie Walker retail store
He said: “The concept for the Johnnie Walker Princes Street whisky emporium is exactly what Edinburgh and the high street needs, that brings together a world-class shopping experience in an experiential format, and I’m ecstatic to be coming on board as the retail manager for this incredible space.”
According to the government’s route map, from 26 April the following will take place:
- up to six people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant
- unrestricted travel within Scotland, England and Wales (subject to local restrictions)
- all shops, stores and close contact services like nail bars can open
- hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants can open until 20:00 indoors, but without alcohol
- alcohol can be served outdoors under local licensing restrictions
- tourist accommodation to reopen (self-catering accommodation restricted in line with rules on indoor gathering)
- funerals and weddings including receptions can take place with up to 50 people (alcohol permitted)
- gyms and swimming pools can reopen for individual exercise
- indoor attractions and public buildings such as galleries, museums and libraries can open
India on red list
Although the lifting of restrictions is expected, there remain threats to the route map.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a press conference at 5pm amid growing concerns about the Indian coronavirus variant and after coming under fire for taking too long to ban travel between the UK and India.
No10 only announced India was being added to the UK’s travel ‘red list’ yesterday, and the measures won’t come into effect until 4am on Friday. Hundreds of people will arrive in Britain from India before then.
Rail ticketing returns
ScotRail will re-introduce on-train duties for ticket examiners and conductors from Monday, 26 April.
The return of these duties, including checking and selling tickets, is the latest step towards a level of normality for customers, after travel restrictions were lifted last week.
The presence of staff moving throughout trains is expected to reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour on services and assist in making sure trains are kept clean and tidy during journeys.
British Transport Police and roving ScotRail teams will also be on trains, carrying out on the spot fraud checks to make sure passengers are paying for the correct journeys.
The train operator will be increasing the number of services from Sunday, 16 May. ScotRail is confident that the current service levels provide enough space to accommodate the easing of restrictions at this time, but is urging customers to plan ahead.