COVID-19 supplementary hospitality FAQs

1m physical distancing

These FAQs are aimed at providing further clarity to hospitality businesses following publication of Scottish Government sectoral guidance and the reopening of outdoor (6 July) and indoor (15 July) areas. It's not separate to government guidance but designed to complement it and further the understanding of what businesses need to consider and do to ensure they are operating safely and within the legal requirements.

As we move through Scotland’s route map, guidance is regularly reviewed and updated. It remains a gradual process and while the hospitality sector has made significant progress to date with reopening outdoor and indoor areas, and with reduced physical distancing to 1m, it is not yet business as usual. A high level of caution and awareness is essential in order to avoid any setbacks. The Government does not want to keep restrictions in place longer than is necessary, but safety must come first. Businesses are therefore requested to maintain the excellent work that has been undertaken so far and to continue working with authorities to build on that progress.

The following has been prepared in cooperation with Environmental Health Officers, industry and the Scottish Government. It will be updated as more information becomes available.

Remember, continue to record customer contact details to support Test and Protect.

1m Physical Distancing

Does the exemption from 2m to 1m physical distancing in bars and restaurants also apply to staff only areas such as kitchens and, if so, what mitigation measures are required?

The exemption applies across the premises. The legislation requires that businesses take all reasonable measures to ensure that physical distancing is maintained. A risk assessment should be undertaken to ensure that suitable controls are implemented. These issues should be discussed with employees as detailed in the Scottish Government Sectoral Guidance.

I want my business to operate with physical distancing of less than 2m, what do I need to do?

In order for the physical distancing requirement to be reduced to 1m businesses must be able to demonstrate that they have implemented additional mitigation measures over and above what would be required to operate at 2m to minimise risk. The additional measures must be in place prior to the distancing requirement being reduced. The Scottish Government has published guidance to help you carry out the necessary risk assessment.  As a reminder, the legislation requires that businesses take all reasonable measures to ensure that physical distancing is maintained.

Would this apply to my external area too?

Yes, provided that similar additional control measures are in place within the external area.

What kind of additional mitigation measures would be acceptable?

By carrying out a new risk assessment process you, as a business, will be able to identify additional mitigation measures that can be applied to your premises. The focus must be how you ensure 1m physical distancing is maintained in all areas, as well as additional protections for staff. Examples of measures that would be deemed to be acceptable include:

  • Increasing the frequency of air changes within the ventilation system and open windows/doors where possible
  • Review layouts, including installation of physical barriers (perspex screens etc.) where 1m physical distancing cannot be met
  • Face coverings for front of house staff
  • Requiring customers to remain seated whilst on premises with no standing at bar areas
  • Enhanced cleaning arrangements (require to be documented)
  • Measures to reduce noise to avoid the raising of voices (a recognised risk factor in the transmission of COVID-19) and ensuring TVs and music are reduced to ambient/low levels

The above list is not exhaustive. A number of the measures above may need to be combined, depending upon individual premises. The decision making process should be documented and retained on site. 

Should you wish to discuss a specific proposal further you should contact our Environmental Health Service for advice. 

Can my customers queue at the bar?

Queuing at the bar should be discouraged, however, where this is not possible patrons within the queue must adhere to the physical distancing requirement and your risk assessment should identify how this can be achieved. The queue should not encroach on seating areas and will require to be managed effectively by management to ensure that distancing requirements are adhered to. This will be easier within larger premises. Where customers are to be permitted to order at the bar only one individual per table should approach the bar at a time. Customers should be directed to return to their seat and not to drink at the bar.

Can my customers sit at the bar?

Sitting at the bar should be discouraged. The placing of patrons at the bar increases the likelihood of your staff, and other customers, becoming exposed to the virus and mitigation measures will require to be implemented to reduce this to an acceptable level, such as screens. Where patrons are sitting at the bar there is also the requirement for them to be physically distanced from others in the vicinity. It will also be necessary to ensure that there are adequate cleaning arrangements in place for high contact surfaces in this area when patrons leave the premises.  

Where a decision is made to seat customers at the bar it is recommended that this area be reserved for individuals rather than groups.

My restaurant has booth seating in place. Can I safely use all of them or do I need to alternate their occupancy to maintain distancing?

Where booth seating is fixed and individuals from different parties are seated back to back there is no need to alternate occupancy. It may be necessary to modify the height of the seat backs to above head height, this will provide additional screening. Movement within premises should be minimal and customers should adhere to government guidelines on physical distancing and respiratory etiquette whilst on the premises.

I have put in additional mitigation measures necessary to reduce physical distancing in my premises to 1m. Is it possible to have tables located at 1m apart provided that customers are seated back to back or do I require to put in screening?

Where possible some form of separation should be put in place, this could be in the form of a screen or a planter. The purpose of this being to prevent one table encroaching into the space of another. Another alternative would be to increase the distance between tables to 1.5m which will allow for the customers to move in and out of their seats without bothering neighbouring tables. In any arrangement it must always be possible for everyone to maintain 1m physical distance.

Where installing physical separation measures, such as screens, care should be taken to ensure that these items do not become a hazard in themselves. Screens should be securely fixed in place to ensure that they cannot fall over. Where fixing items to the floor these should not present a trip hazard. It is also very important to ensure that emergency exits and escape routes are kept clear and free from obstruction.  

Do I need to display a sign notifying customers they are entering a 1m Physical Distancing zone?

Yes, this should be displayed clearly at entry points and throughout the premises, signage should state 'this is a 1 metre physical distancing zone, follow the advice of staff and observe physical distancing.'

My premises covers multiple floors. Can I have one floor where 2m distancing is maintained and the other with 1m?

This is possible as long as the appropriate measures are taken in line with government guidance for operating at either 2m or with the 1m exemption.