Last-minute changes to Scotland’s new coronavirus restrictions which will allow cafes to stay open if they do not sell alcohol have created a “lack of clarity”, Nicola Sturgeon has admitted.
Pubs and licensed restaurants across the country’s central belt will be forced to close for all but takeaway service for 16 days from 6pm on Friday.
But the first minister later revealed cafes will be exempt from the shutdown if they do not sell booze – triggering ongoing questions about how exactly a cafe is defined.
Speaking at the Scottish government’s coronavirus briefing on Friday, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the frustration but said the new measures attempted to strike a balance between saving lives and protecting the economy.
She said the exemption was aimed at addressing a “potential anomaly” where outlets which have an alcohol license but where selling drink is “very, very incidental to their business” would have been forced to close.
“I readily accept that that has resulted in a lack of clarity,” she admitted. “Sometimes that’s the price we have to pay right now for trying to be as flexible as possible.
“It would have been much easier and would have given much greater clarity just to stick to the position that cafes with a licence had to close, but we decided to try to strike a different balance.”
She added that restaurants trying to redefine themselves as cafes would not be allowed as it would “undermine” the aims of the new restrictions.
A definition of what constitutes a cafe has now been published in the Scottish government regulations, she said.
“We are trying to do that as best we can and as I’ve said all along, we will not always get it perfectly right, but we are trying our best to get through this as well as we can,” she told the briefing.
Ahead of the session, Scotland’s national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch told BBC Radio Scotland that he supported the stance.
The measures do not create a “neat division”, he said, but hospitality venues should “know which they are”.
Earlier, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association posted on Twitter: “Absolutely ridiculous that on the day new regulations come into force we still do not know what licensed premises in the central belt will be allowed to open till 6pm for food only – shambles.”
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