Landmark Falkirk bar-restaurant prepares for the long haul

Bars across Scotland can still legally open for takeaways and home delivery despite the Scottish Government request to stay shut – but Falkirk venue Behind the Wall is staying closed.

By Roy Beers
Friday, 3rd April 2020, 4:17 pm
Updated Saturday, 4th April 2020, 10:35 am

This week’s publication of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill, passed on Wednesday, clarified that it is legally possible to sell food and drink from licensed premises that must otherwise cease trading.

That’s as long as they observe social distancing rules, which however might be difficult for many venues to achieve.

However, Behind the Wall owner Brian Flynn said the takeaway facility run briefly from his premises in the run-up to last month’s shut-down had been “a victim of its own success”, and he has no plans to revive the idea.

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Brian Flynn

He said: “There were so many people queuing for takeaways, and with staff dealing with them, that it undermined the concept of social distancing – and we will not be repeating it.

“Instead we are supporting Safebase and other initiatives with support in a measured way which ensures safety and makes a hopefully useful contribution.”

Along with many others across the Scottish licensed trade he sees the virus pandemic as the gravest threat yet experienced by bar owners – “much worse than the smoking ban” – although with the 80 per cent wages deal and rates relief, strong-performing venues can hope to survive long term.

But Mr Flynn predicts “There will be casualties – for example in cities which have experienced overprovision. Some will decide they cannot carry on and will close down.”

Nevertheless he is optimistic that Falkirk’s licensed trade will play a key role in what he sees as an eventual gradual return to normal life, although he stresses that despite widespread predictions that the peak of virus infection can be expected fairly soon he has no idea when that may happen – or when necessary restrictions may be relaxed.

“What I can say is that when it does start to happen it won’t see everything immediately returning to previous conditions – it’s more likely going to be a phased reopening, for example starting with people sitting down in a restaurant area.”

In the unlikely event the trade were allowed to reopen wholesale the rush of custom to licensed premises would be unmanageable and, it is implied, unsafe.

On March 23 award-winning Falkirk Italian restaurant Gambero Rosso also concluded it was time to end its carry-out service, commenting on social media: “We have made the very difficult decision to close for the time being.

“With there being so much uncertainty surrounding us at present, it is vital that we think about the health of our customers and our staff.

“However, this isn’t forever, this is only temporary.

“We don’t know for sure when we’ll reopen but rest assured when we do, we’ll be back

better than ever.”

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