Nicola Sturgeon has urged pub landlords and restaurateurs to refuse to serve customers who refuse to hand over contact details, but has stopped short of imposing a legal ban on bar crawls.
New guidance for the hospitality industry was published on Friday, following concern over the role the reopening of the sector last month has played in the rising transmission of coronavirus in Scotland. The number of cases in an outbreak linked to bars in Aberdeen has risen to 198.
Obtaining contact details from customers has now become a legal requirement, rather than advisory. Meanwhile, statutory guidance states that no music should be played in venues and TVs should be kept on mute, due to fears that customers raising their voices could help spread the virus. Previously, background music and sound from TVs had been permitted.
However, while Ms Sturgeon advised people to “minimise the number of premises” they visited and said legal restrictions were being looked at, she admitted imposing strict rules on pub crawls was “not easy”.
It had been suggested that restrictions on pub crawls could be brought in, following the suggestion that people visiting multiple venues had contributed to the extent of the outbreak in Aberdeen.
“It is not the case that pub crawls are banned in law, right now, this is advice and guidance we're giving to customers,” the First Minister said.
“We are still considering whether it would be practical to put more of a legal framework in place around the issue of pub crawls to minimise the places people go, but that is not an easy thing to do. If you can apply common sense to that it's not a straightforward thing to do.”
According to the new guidance, staff in hospitality venues should challenge customers who are guilty of “loud behaviour” such as shouting or singing.
On the issue of customer contact details, which are obtained to help NHS track and trace teams in the event of an outbreak, Ms Sturgeon added: “Let me make this point clear as well, particularly to members of the public: if customers refuse to provide these details, they should not be served in the place that they're trying to be served."
Representatives of the sector in Scotland urged businesses to follow the new rules, with SNP ministers refusing to rule out a nationwide closure, should the link between the venues and case numbers persist. There were 65 new Covid-19 cases confirmed on Friday - the second-highest daily total since late May.
However, business representatives expressed dismay at the ban on background music and sound from TVs.
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said: “We cannot underestimate the disappointment and concern for the future of the hospitality industry over the Government’s decision that there should be no background music or noise from TVs.
“While the Government says that this is absolutely necessary, the views of some within the hospitality industry differ, and the SLTA, Scottish Beer and Pub Association and the Music Venue Trust are working together to provide evidence that this ban is counter-productive to what is trying to be achieved.”