Restaurant owner hopes severe Covid restrictions become ‘distant past’

Julie Dalton, managing director of Hatch, said business started off with a bang in December but then quickly fizzled out.

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A restaurant owner is optimistic for the future but hopes that severe Covid restrictions in Scotland become a thing of the past.

A number of rules put in place during the festive season in response to the surging Omicron variant eased on Monday.

Nightclubs can now reopen, while the caps on indoor events, table service requirements for venues selling alcohol and social distancing have also been removed.

Julie Dalton, managing director of Hatch in St Andrews, said business started off with a bang in December but then quickly fizzled out due to Scots being urged to postpone their Christmas parties and the announcement of a raft of new rules that would kick in from Boxing Day.

Hatch: Managing director Julie Dalton.STV News
Hatch: Managing director Julie Dalton.

Ms Dalton told STV News that screens went back up and “guests didn’t come and cancelled’ in an effort to stay safe.

She said: “It was all a little bit sad, and we were looking forward to a really busy Christmas in 2021.

“I think we were probably about 25% down on what we should have been in December. So, it was a little bit of a rocking, a knock to the figures.”

Deputy first minister John Swinney said it’s too early to say it’s “the beginning of the end” in terms of restrictions but added that Monday’s easing marked “a very significant moment of progress”.

The requirements for face coverings and self-isolation will remain for the foreseeable future.

Ms Dalton – who praised Fife Council and the government for their “amazing” support – said she managed to keep her employees busy with other jobs during the quiet period.

But now, bookings are back on the rise.

She said: “We’ve got Burns Night here tomorrow night and we’ve certainly had an increase of bookings for that with the restrictions easing.”

Ms Dalton described the scrapping of screens and the one-metre distancing rule as “great”.

She added: “And people can even order at the bar now, so it’s fantastic.”

Although optimistic over the relaxation of the rules, Ms Dalton noted: “I hope we don’t have to go backwards, and screens don’t have to come back. And hopefully this is towards the new future and the restrictions are a distant past.”