Fury and legal threats as Edinburgh remains under Level Three Covid restrictions
The owner of an Edinburgh wine-cafe is threatening legal action against the Scottish Government after the city remained locked in Level Three Covid restrictions.
Ronnie Reid, who runs the One20 Wine Cafe in Dundas Street, claims the government’s decision flies in the face of the criteria for assessing which level each area should be in and threatens the viability of businesses like his.
In a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, his lawyer says the approach to Edinburgh is "illogical and misdirected".
Edinburgh is being left in Level Three despite all 11 areas which were living under Scotland's toughest Level Four restrictions being downgraded to Level Three and three other Level Three areas moving down to Level Two.
The decision comes despite advice understood to have been given to ministers by Public Health Scotland that the Capital had met all of the criteria for being moved down to Level Two.
That would have allowed bars and restaurants to stay open until 8pm and serve alcohol with a main meal instead of closing at 6pm and not being able to serve alcohol.
Mr Reid won a previous legal fight against the city council when the authority tried to order him to close his premises for serving food it considered “too fancy for a cafe”.
Lawyer Elaine Motion, of Balfour+Manson, said Mr Reid would now consider "further appropriate steps, including a judicial review".
She said: "The decision to leave Edinburgh in Tier 3 is contrary to the criteria put in place by the Scottish Government to assess levels fairly. It undermines the process and undermines all the efforts of businesses like One20 Wine Cafe to follow the rules - and threatens the very viability of businesses at a crucial time of year when cases in the city are lower than even some local authorities in Tier 2."
Another restaurant owner who was stocking up at the wholesalers ready for an easing of restrictions on Friday told how she put everything back on the shelf after she heard the announcement that Edinburgh would remain under Level Three controls.
Virginie Brouard, who runs La P’tite Folie restaurant and Le Di-Vin wine bar at Edinburgh’s West End, said she was “gutted” at the decision.,
She said: “It's not fair to penalise us in Edinburgh. I don't understand, it doesn't make sense at all. I was in Costco just now and I was buying stuff to reopen on Friday but I just put it all back on the shelf.
“We were all expecting at least to be until 8pm and be able to serve a glass of wine to people and put a bit of cash in the till.
"I had bookings for Friday - everybody was expecting to have a glass of wine on Friday. I'm gutted.”
The day before the announcement she had tweeted: “One more week of non-trading will see the end of my businesses, I cannot hold on any longer.”
Council leader Adam McVey said he was “extremely disappointed” at the decison.
"Our numbers are stable and have now been consistently within the rates of Level Two for some time. We know what a dire situation local businesses continue to face and the latest news will be yet another blow in the lead-up to the Christmas period, which should be their busiest time of the year. I’ve been strongly pressing for Edinburgh’s case to move to a lower level of restrictions when safe to do so. The data suggest that time should have been now.
“It’s thanks to everyone following the guidance that our numbers have fallen and it’s why the Capital’s expectation was rightly that we would be moving to Level Two. I’ve asked to meet the government as a matter of urgency to ensure they give a full explanation to the people of Edinburgh of the public health advice that they have based their decision on. I’ll also be pressing the case for additional financial support for our businesses who will need additional help following this decision.”
And depute leader Cammy Day said: “This is an outrage and slap in the face for the many businesses, individuals and families who have so carefully stuck to restrictions over the winter so far, suffering significant losses and missing out on seeing one another over the festive period.
“It’s down to them that our cases per 100,000 are lower than many areas around the country, including some already in level two, so we completely understand those who are questioning today’s decision to retain the current restrictions in Edinburgh. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure this is recognised by the Scottish Government, and will be calling for them to reconsider and reverse their decision.”
Capital restaurateurs Victor & Carina Contini posted on their ContiniBites Twitter account: “Can I swear!!!!! Aaaaaggghhh #Level3”
Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said the decision was a “hammer blow” for jobs and businesses struggling to work through the current restrictions.
"Across all measures, Edinburgh should have been lowered to Tier 2. But SNP ministers chose to ignore the advice from their own experts and maintain current restrictions with no clear justification.
“As a former shopkeeper, I know how important the Christmas period is for trade. What we have instead is our local economy suffering and livelihoods under threat. Edinburgh deserves better.”
And Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray called for more support for employers
“Edinburgh went into a ‘16 day’ targeted lockdown on October 9. We are now at day 60 with no logical explanation of how and when Edinburgh moves to a lower tier.
"Everyone must continue to follow the guidelines, but in return the government must deliver its side of the bargain – greater support for employers and a functioning Test and Protect system. If that system was working, we would know where infections are happening and deal with that, rather than keeping the entire city at tier three on a tier two level of infection rates.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said the unwillingness of the government to review the time restrictions on hospitality and the decision to leave Edinburgh in Level Three was “hugely disappointing”.
She said: “Only 42 per cent of Scotland’s pubs and bars will be able open under these restrictions, leaving the majority on life-support. The Christmas and New Year period is critically important to businesses in the hospitality sector and the news that many will be unable to trade as they had hoped and expected will sadly mean some tough business decisions being made over the next few days.”
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