Licensed cafes to stay open but can’t sell alcohol

Licensed cafes will be exempt from the new regulations but will be unable to sell alcohol.

Licensed cafes will be allowed to stay open when new coronavirus restrictions kick in – as long as they don’t sell alcohol.

The measures were confirmed during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday.

Nicola Sturgeon announced restrictions on the hospitality industry on Wednesday as coronavirus cases in the country continue to grow.

Pubs in the central belt, including Glasgow and Lothian, will be closed for two weeks from 6pm on Friday.

Indoor venues in the rest of the country will be able to stay open but will have to close at 6pm.

But the First Minister has made it clear that cafes will be exempt from the regulations.

When asked by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie if licensed cafes will be able to stay open under the new rules if they only sell food, the First Minister said: “I am delighted I have the opportunity to clarify this point today, cafes will be able to open whether they are licensed or unlicensed as long as they don’t sell alcohol.

“The regulations will exclude a specific exemption for cafes, and these regulations will be published tomorrow and environmental health officers will be responsible for ensuring that they are adhered to.”

Scotland-wide, indoor hospitality venues will only be allowed to operate between 6am and 6pm daily, selling food and non-alcoholic drinks only.

Outdoor bars, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to remain open up until 10pm and will be allowed to sell alcohol up to that time.

However, all licensed premises in the five central belt health board areas – including the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling – will be closed for both indoor and outdoor operations over the 16-day period.

Meanwhile, Jeane Freeman has been urged to clarify why cafes can be exempt from the shutdown if they stop selling alcohol but pubs and restaurants are unable to do the same.

The Health Secretary told MSPs the measures are a “balance” and “targeted at those situations where the virus has the best chance of moving from one person to another”.

Asked to explain why pubs and restaurants in the affected central belt areas cannot be excluded, she said it is a “balance” aimed at clear public messaging and curbing the spread of Covid-19.

She said: “We have to balance what we need to do in order to interrupt the progression of this virus with clarity of communication that is clear for the public to follow.

“That is why we have taken the steps we take, there is never – trust me – a perfect balance in all of this.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said although the Tories reluctantly support the new restrictions, they will be “catastrophic” for the hospitality sector and its supply chains.

He said: “Given the need for compliance and buy-in from the public, it’s imperative that there is clarity about what people can and cannot do.

“Further confusion has arisen today over whether cafes with alcohol licences can open. And if they can’t, how do you define a cafe versus a restaurant versus a pub?

“The SNP Government must clear this confusion up because business owners need to know whether they can open in two days’ time.”

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