As we reflect on the passing of a year since both the First Minister of Scotland and the UK Prime Minster told us to stop going to the pub, the First Minister yesterday (16 March 2021) sought to plot a much anticipated, yet indicative route out of the current lockdown.

Hospitality leaders in particular listened with great interest in the hope their businesses could reopen.  Whilst there were dates provided and targets set to restart sections of the industry, the statement stopped short of setting a target date for the end of social restrictions.

Today will undoubtedly signal hope for many, whilst other businesses like sporting venues, large events, gigs and nightclubs, and the people whose livelihoods are supported by them, are again made to wait for some light at the end of the tunnel.

The First Minister remains committed to her regional framework which means the undernoted dates should be viewed with caution. Despite signs that the mainland would move as one, decisions will still be made on a local authority basis and tied to the rates of infection.  The ambition is that from early June, all of Scotland will move to level 1 and then by the end of June, all of Scotland will move to at least level 0.

It will be vitally important to examine the granular detail which underpins today’s announcement. Previous experience tells us that copious amounts of regulation and guidance will be forthcoming from Government, but at least for now the sector has dates to look forward to and to plan with. We will provide a further update on the regulations once published.

Key dates

5 April 2021

The phased re-opening of non-essential retail begins as “click and collect” retail services will be permitted to reopen. So too will homeware stores, and car showrooms and forecourts.  Finally, hairdressers and barber salons can reopen for pre-booked appointments.  Many hospitality bodies had been lobbying for an alignment for the reopening of non-essential retail and hospitality so this will come as a blow.

26 April 2021

This is a key date for hospitality such as cafes, bars and restaurants.

  • Outdoor: service outdoors of groups of up to 6 from 3 households is permitted until 10pm.   Alcohol will be allowed outdoors and there will be no requirement for food to be served.  The collation and retention of track and trace details remains key. We anticipate many clients will now be putting in place applications for occasional licences to commence from 26 April in order to provide outdoor hospitality.
  • Indoor: It is proposed that there will be limited indoor hospitality allowed for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks until 8pm. However, groups indoors will be limited to 4 people from no more than 2 households.
  • Life events: funerals and weddings, including receptions, can take place from 26 April with up to 50 people, but no alcohol is allowed
  • Indoor Attractions: tourist venues and attractions such as galleries, museums and libraries will be able to open

17 May 2021

From this date it is proposed that indoor hospitality could be permitted to serve alcohol and operate with “more normal opening hours”, suggested as being to 10:30pm.  However, it is also suggested that restrictions could include a requirement for people to book in advance and imposed maximum dwell times - 2 hour slots, for example. There has been no suggestion that any “substantial meal” test will be retained.

It was also signalled that cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls will reopen from 17 May and small scale (no detail was provided) events are also being earmarked from this date.

Further relaxations may occur in June and beyond, but at this stage there is no further detail of what those steps might be.


There is much to digest from today’s roadmap. The precise regulations are awaited. For some in the hospitality sector, the dates provided may give an optimistic spring in the step – but for those businesses without indicative reopening dates, this creates further uncertainty and concern.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at March 2021. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

Date published

17 March 2021

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