The recovery will be local.

For the last two months we’ve sheltered in place as the economy was battered by the relentless storm of international events.

There won’t be many visitors for a while. It will be the people in this city that will dictate the shape of things to come.

The gradual relaxing of lockdown measures will release competing demands for public space.

It’s what we do with it that counts. Returning to the previous template of Glasgow life with a shrug of the shoulders will be a route to disappointment unless we adapt to changing circumstances.

Cities around the world are looking at regulating the way people gather together with social distance rules while planning how to jumpstart the economy.

Allowing businesses to take to the streets is a progressive measure that would provide assistance to shuttered businesses.

Restaurants and bars will need to reopen yet maintain physical distancing.

The exact nature of these requirements will become clear in the coming days.

Whether it’s a two metres distance rule initially suggested by the government or the one-metre distance championed by BrewDog pubs this week, the measures to protect the public will still make reopening impossible for venues with a limited footprint.

We could react by reconfiguring roads into newly created shared spaces, both for exercise and for commerce. Traffic is rerouted elsewhere.

Council and licensing rules are amended. That’s the idea anyway. It’s a compromise.

An adjustment that would create opportunity.

We’ve got used to a dramatic reduction in traffic accompanied by a marked increase in air quality.

The questions now arise: Do we surrender to the supremacy of the car in the city centre? What should we consider fair street usage that serves the community during extraordinary times?

Lithuania’s capital Vilnius drew attention at the end of last month when it announced plans to turn the city into a vast open-air café by allowing bar and restaurant owners to put tables outside for free while observing physical distancing rules. Since then there has been similar temporary measures and road closures introduced in Los Angeles, New York, Calgary, with proposals arising in London, Belfast and Dublin. Open air dining spaces have proven to be successful on Gordon Street, Buchanan Street and John Street. Closing Merchant City streets to cars and allowing safe open-air dining could provide a lifeline to businesses considering their immediate future.

Give Argyle Street in Finnieston over to the bars and restaurants that have established Glasgow’s reputation for food and drink. Add Gordon Street, parts of Sauchiehall Street, Byres Road and Dumbarton Road, Duke Street and Gallowgate, Pollokshields and Hyndland. You can talk about the weather and the competing demands of residents but don’t dismiss the concept without due consideration. If we get things right in the next three months, it could make a huge impact on what happens in the next three years. Now is the time to take a fresh look at the city and use what resources we have in terms of public space to help put people back to work.


This week, social media has been filled with people posting their last normal picture before coronavirus took over. This burst of nostalgia for the recent past got me thinking about the last normal conversation I had for this column before the world moved swiftly in an unexpected direction. Glaschu, a modern-Scottish fine dining restaurant and sophisticated bar that was set to open in the premises of The Western Club on Royal Exchange Square, cancelled their launch party shortly after I met with owner Andy McCartney in March. He had just signed a 30-year lease.

When I spoke to him this week, Andy confirmed that tentative steps are being made towards that first opening. “My chef Dion Scott who has worked under Heston Blumenthal and general manager Scott McLean who has led front of house teams at Gleneagles are both still with me and we will see what can be done once the measures for social distancing have been announced. We want to get going and for everyone to be safe. I know some places are already making alterations to their places, but for me, I want to wait and see what is being asked of us and then we will make decisions.

"It might be that we have a slightly different menu at first than what we were talking about when we last spoke in March. We will be a responsive as we can to what is realistic and what people are looking for”. Andy agreed that increased outdoor trading could help his new restaurant deal with reduced capacity in the dining room.

“We have plans for a terrace already, if someone was to tell me that we could set out more tables on Royal Exchange Square then that would definitely add to how we could operate when we bring staff back.”

Andy also works with partners Scott Leask and Darren Blackburn at Base Hospitality Consultancy which pools their experience to offer recruitment and development support to businesses. Darren says bars in Glasgow will need to be ready for the changes to come: “We won’t have people crowded at bars, there will be more table service, some places will look at social distancing and decide they are better off sitting this out. They’ll need continued support if they can’t operate. Other bars that have more space will need to be on top of booking systems and training. It might hasten the adoption of some bar service trends we’ve already begun to see in Glasgow.”

Both say that Glasgow is more insulated from the impact of reduced tourism than other cities. Andy told me: “I keep thinking about when I will be able to get away for my next holiday. I said this to my girlfriend who is the general manager of October in Princes Square and she said she gets messages all the time from folk saying all they can think about is getting back to the bar with their pals. People from Glasgow like to dress up and go out. That’s not going to change.”

Brooklyn Cafe

The Pelosi family have been serving up big breakfasts, coffee and ice cream at the Brooklyn Café since it first opened its doors on 15th October 1931. The Southside landmark has now reopened after the longest period of closure in their history with a new one-way system, takeaway service and outside hot water hand washing station. It’s a measure of what’s possible with some planning and creative thinking, alongside some help from the local community. Perspex screens now separate customers from staff and painted floor spacers now help customers keep their distance.

The Brooklyn Cafe, are active members of the Shawlands Business Improvement District.

Lisa McLaughlin, BID manager for the area said: “We’re delighted to welcome the business back to the area, and we hope the measures that have been put in place inspire other businesses to think outside the box and make investments in the safety of their staff and customers.”