‘Vertical drinking’ rules pour confusion over pub Covid plans

Pubs and bars are still waiting for the fine details of what beyond level zero will mean for their industry.

‘Vertical drinking’ rules pour confusion over pub Covid plans iStock

Pubs and bars are still waiting for the fine details of what beyond level zero will mean for their industry amid confusion over the rules on “vertical drinking”.

Scotland’s Covid recovery secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney has been criticised for causing the stir during a discussion about wearing masks in nightclubs.

During an appearance BBC Radio Scotland earlier on Wednesday, he was asked: “If you are standing at a bar, for instance – vertical drinking as they call it – you are standing up having a drink at a bar, can you do that without wearing a face covering?”

Swinney replied: “No, you can’t” – adding you can order at a bar wearing a face covering but not stand there and drink it.

Earlier in the interview, he said: “If people are sitting down at a table and having a drink you can say the hospitality rules apply there and people don’t have to wear a face covering.

“But if somebody is up dancing, which they are inevitably moving around, the existing rules say they should wear a face covering – but I accept that in a nightclub that is quite a challenge.

“That is why we are having the discussions and we will iron those issues out in consultation with the sector in the course of today.”

But the Scottish Hospitality group tweeted: “There will be NO restriction on vertical drinking ref to masks.

“If you are standing you can take your mask off to drink/consume.

“This mornings comments from @JohnSwinney on @BBCGaryR #bbcgms were inaccurate and needs to be clarified now by @scotgov.”

Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), attended a meeting on Wednesday with the Scottish Government and other industry groups.

The group has also said officials provided clarity after the “confusing messages” from Mr Swinney.

Mr Wilkinson said: “It is absolutely crucial to have this clarified although we are still waiting for the finer detail on this and other questions.

“However, we thank the Scottish Government for their time today and hope that further information is forthcoming before Monday.

“Mr Swinney’s comments were both unhelpful and misinformed.”

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) had also raised concerns following Mr Swinney’s “extremely worrying” comments.

Its Scotland director, Joe Crawford, said: “Being allowed to order at the bar is all well and good but if, from August 9, pub goers can only have a drink whilst sitting at a table that means our smaller, community locals still won’t be able to operate at a normal capacity or trade at a level they need to make ends meet.

“This is huge blow for consumers, pubs and the breweries that serve them who were hoping to be joining England and Wales in moving towards normality.

“Our pubs need to be allowed to start to recover and rebuild from a devastating 18 months of closures and stifling restrictions so they can continue to play their part at the heart of communities and in tackling loneliness and social isolation.

“There is absolutely no sense in ministers allowing large groups to congregate on dancefloors in nightclubs but not allowing two or three friends to stand and chat with a pint in their hand at their local pub.”

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for health, Annie Wells MSP, described it as a “shambles”.

She added: “Within just a few hours, the SNP Government have U-turned on what John Swinney emphatically told everyone earlier.

“He had to apologise for promoting fake news a few weeks ago and now his officials have been forced to slap down his latest gaffe in humiliating fashion.

“Mixed messaging like this is unacceptable. It makes life even harder for businesses who already have to adapt to new rules.

“John Swinney doesn’t need a vertical drink, he needs a good long horizontal lie down.”

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