Bars in Borders proceeding with caution as they prepare to reopen

Pub bosses across the Borders are getting ready to welcome customers back in from the cold next week after being allowed to open their beer gardens this week.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 9th July 2020, 2:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 3:22 pm
Locals Hugh 'Shug' Gallagher and Tommy Richardson being served drinks at the Spread Eagle Hotel in Jedburgh.
Locals Hugh 'Shug' Gallagher and Tommy Richardson being served drinks at the Spread Eagle Hotel in Jedburgh.

As part of its easing of coronavirus lockdown laws, the Scottish Government is allowing licensed premises to begin trading again from next Wednesday, albeit with strict measures to ensure the safety of customers and staff and possibly with two-metre social distancing regulations still in place.

Pubs and restaurants are currently deciding whether to start serving again and if what’s happening south of the border since pubs there were given the go-ahead to reopen on Saturday is anything to go by, many will opt to stay shut for now.

It’s estimated that only around two-thirds of English bars began trading again at the weekend.

Nicky Shiels and David Easton enjoying alfresco beers at the Carters' Rest in Jedburgh as Jen Craig delivers another round.

Many Scottish bars, especially smaller ones lacking outdoor spaces, might also wait to see if, as expected, Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon announces a reduction of the social distancing requirement from two metres to one.

Sandy Craig, owner of Tweedbank restaurant Herges by the Loch, for one, says it would be nigh on impossible to reopen his business until the distancing required is halved.

He could, in theory, have partially reopened his Tweedbank Drive restaurant this week as it has an outdoor dining area, but due to his concerns over the need to enforce two metres’ social distancing he has decided against taking the opportunity of reopening next Wednesday.

Instead, he plans to wait until the end of the month as he hopes only one-metre social distancing will be required by then.

Hawick's Trinity Bar.

Sandy said: “We are not opening until the last Friday of this month, July 31.

“We could have opened on Monday if we wanted to and we could open inside next Wednesday, but Nicola Sturgeon has not given any indication on distancing at this moment in time.

“We are waiting to see if we get a one-metre rule or stick with two metres. You can’t have two metres apart with the configuration at Herges.

“We are doing our best to comply with the regulations as they are right now, but it’s like the Sahara Desert. The sands change the hills every day, and we’re just waiting to see if we get one-metre distancing for inside, which I think will come, but it’s all speculation right now.

Reivers Sports Bar in Galashiels.

“I look around to see who could open and, in all honesty, unless you have got an outside area where everybody is going to stand out, it’s difficult.”

Square One in Hawick is taking a similarly cautious approach and has decided against reopening next Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Drumlanrig Square bar said: “On July 15, restaurants and bars can reopen with very strict guidelines making the bar experience very different to what we are all used to.

“We have made the decision to keep the bar closed until such time as the guidelines change and make it a viable option for us to reopen and welcome you all back. Hopefully, this will not be too far in the distant future.”

Square One in Hawick.

However, Reivers Sports Bar in Galashiels High Street will open its beer garden from 2pm tomorrow and will start trading fully next Wednesday.

A spokesperson said: “There are social distance guidelines in place, and there will be a limited amount of people allowed at one time, so if the beer garden is full we can’t let anybody else in.

“We are still waiting for the government to finalise all the guidelines for opening indoors, and it’s just as new to us as it is to you, so please be considerate when entering.”

The Woodcutter Bar in Marigold Bank in Galashiels reopens next Wednesday, and a spokesperson said: “The Woodcutter will be reopening on Wednesday from 1pm.

“Social distancing guidelines will be in place, so please stick to them and be patient.

“We look forward to seeing you all again.”

Karen Craig at Herges on the Loch in Tweedbank.

The Mill House in Dean Street in Galashiels reopens the Wednesday after, July 22.

A spokesperson said: “We can’t wait to welcome you back to our restaurant and offer a relaxed and safe environment for you to enjoy with friends and family.

We have missed you and can’t wait to see you all again.”

The Trinity Bar in Hawick’s Duke Street has been doing reasonable trade since it reopened its beer garden on Monday, ahead of full reopening next Wednesday.

However, that’s not too surprising as it is the only pub in town with an outdoor drinking area of any size.

Trade is naturally weather-dependent at the moment, and that has not been doing the bar’s owner, Eddie Hall, any favours.

He said: “We’ve already had three gazebos blow away and we are onto our third. The first day was a wee bit hectic, but it’s settled down a bit now. It’s all dependent on the weather.

“We’re taking bookings online and we’re fully booked up for the weekend. We can get 50 in there. We open fully on Wednesday and we will probably be able to get 20 inside our front and back bar.

“We’re the only pub in Hawick that’s open now, the only one with a beer garden, so we have been getting new faces in. Hopefully, they’ll return even when the other bars open.”

The Lauderdale Hotel in Lauder is reopening on Friday, July 17.

A spokesperson said: “We will be operating on limited hours for an interim period and these hours will be communicated via our Facebook page. During this period, a limited menu will be offered.

“We have spent our time renovating the hotel lounge and bistro and we hope you like our new decor.

“We want to continue to provide the best customer experience and look forward to welcoming each and every one of our most valued customers back.”

The Auld Cross Keys in Denholm reopened its beer garden on Monday and is also doing takeaways, with a spokesperson saying: “Covid-secure checklist complete, we are offering our takeaway menu and beverages on our south-facing patio, weather permitting. We look forward to seeing you all again soon.”

The Salmon Inn in Bank Street in Galashiels reopens on Monday, July 13.

A spokesperson said: “We have limited tables, so please bear with us. There is a maximum of six people per booking.

“We will be running a table service only on all tables.

“We’re looking forward to seeing all our lovely customers.”

The Black Swan in Horsemarket in Kelso reopens next week, and a spokesperson said: “We are happy to say we will be opening back up on the 15th. However, as with every business we will be temporarily adjusting the way we function, so we ask that you can be patient with our staff as this is going to be new for everyone.

“Our capacity in both bars will be reduced so queues may be expected.

“We also won’t be offering table bookings or reservations so you may want to arrive as early as possible to ensure a table. We can’t wait to welcome you all back.”

The Waggon Inn in Coalmarket in Kelso also reopens next Wednesday, and it said: “We will have a limited amount of tables that will be at the two-metre distance. All other tables will be at a minimum of one-metre distancing, but we will ensure the use of the Scottish Government’s mitigation advice.”

The Carters’ Rest in Abbey Place in Jedburgh reopened its beer garden on Monday, with a spokesperson saying: “We look forward to welcoming you back.”

The Ship Inn in East Port in Melrose reopens next Wednesday, and it said: “We are now live for our online booking systems. We have some indoor and outdoor tables exclusively for walk-ins.”

The King’s Arms in High Street in Melrose reopens its outside area tomorrow, and it said: “We’re all stocked up with goodies, ready to see all of our friends again on Friday from 4pm.

“Keeping the beer gardens open will be down to us, so please keep two metres apart from anyone you meet from outside your household and don’t share food or drinks.

“There will be one-way systems in place, hand sanitisers available and our friendly staff on hand to keep everyone right.”