OUR winter of restlessly wandering the streets, lingering outside coffee shops to collect paper cups, returning home to unpack boxes of food, is behind us. We have an itinerary for real life to start again. 

Key dates include 26 April when outdoor hospitality will open until 10pm with alcohol permitted across the city. You will be able to sit inside bars, cafes and restaurants without ordering alcohol until 8pm.  

17 May is the date to circle in your diary. You will be able to book two-hour time-limited slots to have food and drinks indoors until 10.30pm. The Glasgow infection rate situation remains precarious, but we now have an indication that eating food off plates with cutlery at a table in public will soon be possible. 

Beer gardens will be buzzing. Bookings kick off today and tomorrow for spaces like Brel’s garden off Ashton Lane, SWG3’s food and drink yard and Saint Luke’s outside bar opposite The Barras. 

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow should embrace socialising outdoors for the summer. It’s the safest way to congregate while Covid remains a concern. It can increase capacity for smaller venues implementing distancing measures. Ideas for better use of public space by local businesses that emerged last year remain largely unrealised. That’s something we should be talking about.  

You can find plenty of folk to tell you outdoor hospitality is not an option for Glasgow. It rains. We’re not allowed to drink in the streets. Yet for the last 10 years, Colin Barr’s Bier Halle has had a busy licensed terrace on Gordon Street that was recently joined by other seated areas on Buchanan Street.

He sees this as something that could have a part to play in hospitality’s recovery and senses a change in attitudes.

“I feel like the council are starting to see the benefits of being like every other major city. They are more encouraging.” he says. “There were a lot of rules and regulations to adhere to when we began. They couldn’t get their heads around it at the start, but once we got going it was fine.

“We invested in the equip-ment, worked out how we pop up and how the temporary structures are pulled down, thought about what happens with different weather. It’s two or three hours in the morning to build. We do it every day over the summer and people know we will be there. The tents and barriers have to go through inspections but if you do it properly then it works. It’s not just a case of buying a gazebo and putting it outside your pub.” 

Colin has been a publican since he was 18, launching Bennett’s, The Apartment and The Tunnel before opening the Bier Halle 21 years ago. After the longest break in his career, he is looking forward to seeing his staff return from furlough and meeting his regular customers again. 

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When they reopen, the new outdoor menu will include popular martini cocktails on draught from a specially installed drinks machine: “We did the taste test recently and people are going to love it.”  

Following in the family footsteps, Colin’s son Joshua is preparing for his bar, The Locale, to reopen on North Street. Their beer garden is one of the most coveted drinking spots in Glasgow when the sun is shining. 

In other weather conditions, they have figured out some solutions. “We’ve a stretch tent fitted which provides cover but also allows ventilation and we have heaters in the open air. I think that’s the way forward. Social distancing is not going away any time soon. Outdoor options for entertainment and hospitality make sense.” 

“The council has been a wee bit more lenient when applying for licences and that’s helpful.” 

Conor Miskimmin will open the doors to his two neighbourhood bars, Phillies of Shawlands and Redmond’s in Dennistoun, when the rules are changed. He has an outdoor area at Phillies and that makes it the first to return.

“When you look at the data, outdoor transmission happens less frequently so it’s got to be a key component to what we offer. It is going to be a part of how businesses get open again until we get through this” he says.

“There’s a blanket acceptance on existing outside areas at the moment from the authorities but I don’t know how fast things move when you are planning something new.”

Meanwhile, The Thornwood will be making best use of the outdoor space that they have at the side of the bar, granted under an occasional licence that the council have said they can keep until March 2022.

Owner Marc Ferrier says: “Sitting outside and having a pint is where it’s at. We’ve got heaters set up and we’re about to put in a more substantial canopy. If it is pouring with rain it won’t make a difference. When I was younger if I said I was cold my dad used to say 'put on a jumper'. Suitable clothing makes it much nicer if you are drinking outside." 

Glasgow Times: The ThornwoodThe Thornwood

The neighbourhood bar has kept in touch with its locals through social media and reached new customers with an off-licence delivery service. 

Marc feels like there will be new opportunities for bars after a horrendous year. 

He said: “I’m excited to get back, the customers are excited. If you could harness the spirit of Ibiza 1989 and put it into every bar, I just feel there’s going to be a wave of positivity with everyone having a good time and getting to know one another again.”