Cafe confusion: New guidance bids to clarify shutdown rules

New rules will come into force from 6pm on Friday and are scheduled to end on October 25.

The First Minister has attempted to address confusion over new restrictions affecting the hospitality industry.

Bars and restaurants across central Scotland will be forced to close – except for takeaway service – from 6pm on Friday until October 25 due to the rising number of coronavirus cases.

But cafes across the five health board regions – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley – are exempt from the shutdown as long as they do not serve alcohol.

Thursday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon of an exemption sparked confusion over the definition of a cafe.

The Scottish Government has now issued guidance, stating that a cafe is 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”.

Speaking at her daily Covid-19 briefing on Friday, Sturgeon said it was designed to stop restaurants from turning into cafes.

She explained: “The reason for this cafe exemption is quite simple. It’s to give people, particularly those who might be living alone and also working from home, somewhere that they can still meet a friend for a coffee and a chat.

“And we judged that is important to help reduce the loneliness and isolation that comes with some of these restrictions that are in place right now.”

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was “deliberately trying” to reduce the volume of places that people come together to stem the spread of coronavirus.

She added: “So that’s why we’re not allowing premises like restaurants to decide to just stop selling alcohol, become cafes and stay open.

“That would undermine the purpose of these restrictions.”

Speaking about the “lack of clarity”, the First Minister said: “Sometimes that’s the price we have to pay right now for trying to be as flexible as possible.

“It would have been much easier and would have given much greater clarity just to stick to the position yesterday that cafes with a licence had to close, but we decided to try to strike a different balance.”

Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes outwith central Scotland will only be allowed to operate indoors between 6am and 6pm and not serve alcohol, though drinks can be served until 10pm in outdoor areas.

Police Scotland said additional officers will be deployed to support the new restrictions.

Chief constable Iain Livingstone said: “Officers will be highly visible in communities over the weekend to engage with the public, explain the new advice, guidance and restrictions and encourage people to do the right thing.

“From the start of this pandemic, the people of Scotland have demonstrated impressive personal responsibility. They know that following the advice and adhering to the rules is the best way to combat the spread of coronavirus.

“These significant restrictions on our freedoms do not affect everyone equally and I have been clear from the outset that constables will exercise the discretion of their office to work with our fellow citizens in a collective effort to protect lives.

“The police service of Scotland will continue to work with courtesy, compassion and common sense to help keep people safe.”

Other changes amid the new restrictions include shops being asked to return to two-metre physical distancing and the reintroduction of earlier measures such as one-way systems.

Further measures impacting the five areas of central Scotland will be imposed from Saturday, including contact sports for adults aged 18 and above suspended for the next two weeks – apart from professional sports.

Indoor group exercise activities will no longer be allowed, however gyms can remain open for individual exercise.

Snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling, casinos and bingo halls will also close and no outdoor live events are allowed in these five areas.

At the briefing, the First Minister revealed there had been a further six deaths due to coronavirus in Scotland.

There have also been 1246 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours – a record high.

Speaking about the restrictions, Sturgeon added: “We do believe this can have, and will have, a significant impact on transmission.

“I know these are unwelcome and believe me when I say they have been imposed with the greatest reluctance, but I would urge all of you to stick with them.

“The only alternative to restrictions like this just now is a continuing surge in Covid which would take more lives and probably in turn require even tighter restrictions in the weeks and months to come.”

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