THERE is no roadmap for reopening Glasgow’s bars and restaurants.

Hospitality in the city faces a cloudy future. The next phase will be based on the appropriate response to a continuing public health emergency. The Scottish Government will lay out the framework. Then comes the calculations based on factors like capacity, staffing levels and whether anyone will show up when venues reopen.

Graham Suttle launched Lebowskis along with two friends in 2007, followed by The Finnieston, then Porter & Rye to extend their position among the new wave of fashionable eateries on Argyle Street. Kained Holdings now has seven venues and 200 employees. Everything shut and staff were furloughed when lockdown was announced. Now the group is trying to adjust and plot a course forward.

The first step: Lebowskis will launch a delivery service this weekend featuring their signature burgers and White Russian cocktails. “We’re in the unknown but we are doing what we can for right now.”

Graham backs calls for more support from the Scottish Government for hospitality: “We’re being told we are at the back of the queue in terms of getting started again but at the same time we are one of the industries that can play a big part in getting the economy moving. We’re a lynchpin – when we get going, so do suppliers and producers.”

“I feel like Westminister listened to the hospitality guys and adjusted their policy but if you look at the rates measures here – they are different from down south. I don’t know why. It doesn’t feel like the information is there. I know it’s difficult, but we need to understand what the wider government strategy is for hospitality. We don’t seem to be a high priority.”

Graham says local businesses are making preparations but ultimately they will require more reassurance. “We need to have hope for the future. I was sitting finalising our furlough payments and I heard on the news that hospitality would be the last to open and it felt like another nail in the coffin. They specifically name bars and restaurants for restrictions but they don’t outline any of the support that should be coming with it.”

The hospitality industry is in the midst of a global existential crisis. Owners and chefs are questioning the entire business model as they consider their place in the new normal. Meanwhile, UK industry bodies and leading chefs are lobbying government for a variety of support measures, including a nine-month rent free period. The initial reaction from the Treasury has been muted.

Will rent payments sink local businesses? “It’s a culmination of factors” Graham says. “Rent is one of them. We’ve been lucky with our landlords for the most part. Venues are all in the same storm but they are all in different boats. Everyone has their own pressing concerns.

When it is safe to reopen, considerations have to be made about whether it is feasible. “It seems clear that there will be reduced occupancy due to social distancing. I was speaking to someone today who is looking at 25% occupancy if they tell us that people have to be two metres apart. If you look at smaller pubs and bars, they can’t run at that level. When you start trading, you are off the furlough scheme but you can’t generate revenue to cover costs. Even with larger venues, when you do the sums you still end up with a negative figure. You are not going to have sufficient cash flow. A lot of people have deferred payments, but they still have to be made at some point.”

“I worry about how people can develop their staff and raise the bar on food and drink in the city if we are are just servicing debts for the years ahead.

“We will lose a lot of talent. The hospitality industry is coming together to support each other, but I feel like we are being asked to do this on our own.”

Cail Bruich is another restaurant to return this week with a delivery and collection service. There was a joyous response to the new menu and Chris Charalambous, head chef and owner, has returned to the kitchen. “We have thought about how we can adapt the experience that we offer and deliver that. It’s been an emotionally difficult time, a lot of uncertainty, everyone was really drained. We gave the team the time off but now we are starting to think about what the future is going to look like and how we can get ahead for now.”

On Cail Bruich at Home he says: “It will have the same technical approach and we are working on little touches that can add to a sense of occasion in your own home.”

Chris says the next phase remains a mystery. “Every scenario is hypothetical. I do think the government is doing a good job. I’m not getting too stressed about it. We will reopen at some stage. It’s just a question of when.

“If restaurants are last to open then there will need to be more support. Perhaps there could be a furlough scheme that takes account of the reduced capacity we would be asked to operate at. A reduction of VAT would help.”

Chris says his landlord has been supportive and rent-free periods help mitigate reduced income. “You do still have to pay that rent back though. It’s not going away. How do you get back onto a level-playing field without accumulating debt? Operating at a reduced capacity, it could be 10 years down the line before you are back to where you were before this started.”

“I think the worst thing the government could do is say reopen with two metres between guests.

“That would leave me with 15 covers and I couldn’t justify opening the doors. It’s just so uncertain”.

Kyle Steel, from Dockyard Social, operates a street food market on Haugh Road and they are also considering what comes next. He believes he has the space to accommodate people with social distancing measures in place, but he would still have the same overheads each week.

For now, they’ve joined the PEEK Project, a social enterprise that is operating from BAaD in the East End to prepare meals for children and vulnerable families in the city and distribute them from a food truck.

Dockyard Social will be operating takeaway and collection from their usual unit close to Finnieston every Friday, Saturday and Sunday which will support

work preparing care


Popular dishes available this weekend include Lebanese falafel sandwiches, spicy jackfruit tacos and Glasgow Salad – waffle fries with curry sauce, cheese and crispy onions.