Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector guidance

Guidance for the tourism and hospitality sector, including procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist.

Frequently asked questions

These questions and answers are aimed at providing further clarity to hospitality businesses following publication of Scottish Government sectoral guidance, and subsequent statutory guidance and additional measures for the hospitality sector. It is not separate to government guidance but designed to complement it and further the understanding of what businesses need to consider and do to ensure they are operating safely and within the legal requirements.

As we move through Scotland’s route-map, guidance is having to be regularly reviewed and updated. It remains a gradual process and while the hospitality sector has made significant progress to date with reopening outdoor and indoor areas, and with reduced physical distancing to 1m, it is not yet business as usual. A high level of caution and awareness is essential in order to avoid any set-backs. Government does not want to keep restrictions in place a moment longer than is necessary, but safety must come first. Businesses are therefore requested to maintain the excellent work that has been undertaken so far and to continue working with authorities to build on that progress.

We have prepared this in cooperation with Environmental Health Officers and industry. It will be updated as more information becomes available.

Remember – continue to record customer contact details to support Test and Protect (as of 14 August this is a mandatory requirement – see relevant guidance) and encourage staff and customers to download the Protect Scotland App.

Pubs, restaurants and hospitality settings will be required to close at 10pm

Q: Do I need to close my doors at 22:00 or can I call last orders at 22:00?

A: Your premises will need to be closed by 22:00. Last orders will therefore need to be called at an appropriate time to allow service, customers to eat/drink up and to depart the premises to ensure doors are closed by 22:00

Q: I run a hotel, can I serve residents after 22:00?

A: Bar and restaurant services must close at 22:00 so it will not be possible to serve residents in these settings after this time. 

Q: I run a hotel, can I provide room service after 22:00?

A: Yes, room service is still permitted after 22:00

Q: Does the 22:00 limit apply to non-food / beverage service areas of a hotel – e.g. front hall, lounge?

A: No, the new restrictions apply to the hospitality spaces i.e. the bar and restaurant. If the lounge is providing hospitality services i.e. food and drink, then this will also need to end at 22:00.

Q: Under normal and current licensing conditions drinking/eating up time (15 minutes or  30 minutes where drink is consumed with food) is permitted after the terminal hour – why isn’t this being accommodated with these changes?

A: These are not normal times and the objective is to reduce the risk of transmission by reducing the amount of time people spend in hospitality settings. These measures are not what government want to do but are required in the interest of public health so it is unfortunately necessary to insist that premises are closed by 22:00.

Table service only

Q: Table service only was required under statutory guidance, what difference does this change make?

A: There should be no real difference to way your premises operates as under statutory guidance you will already be providing table service only. The key difference is it is now required by law under regulations that you do this and direct action can be taken if you fail to comply with this requirement.

Limits for meeting others

Q: what are the new restrictions on meeting people at home?

A: Do not meet people from any other households in your home or another person’s home socially, unless they are in your extended household

These rules also apply to children

Children whose parents do not live in the same household can move between homes, as can non-cohabiting couples

Very limited exemptions apply for childcare, and for tradespeople

Q: Does this extend to hospitality?

A: No, in hospitality a maximum of 6 people from 2 households can still meet, with children under 12 exempt

Q: What do I need to do as a business to ensure this rule is being followed properly?

A: This is a legal requirement and every individual must follow the rules. As a business you should ensure your booking system is arranged so that it does not accept bookings that exceed these numbers. A simple step is to ensure staff who are taking calls for bookings are asking the right questions, including – is everyone from not more than 2 households? Are there any children under 12 from the same 2 households as these do not count towards the 6? Businesses should not accept bookings from groups that are clearly exceeding the limit.

Q: Can I take a booking for a birthday party where children from multiple households who are all under 12 will be there given they are exempt?

A: No, children under 12 are exempt from the maximum of 6 number but not from the maximum of 2 households – it must always be no more than 2 households regardless of the number of children under 12.

Q: I have forward bookings for groups of more than 6 people from 2 different households – what should I do?

A: It is the responsibility of individuals in the first instance to ensure they are following the rules so those who have made the booking should be in touch to discuss alternatives. If not you should review your bookings and where necessary make contact to discuss alternatives. This may mean a cancellation but may also be a rebooking for numbers that comply with the new rules.  This will avoid difficult situations on arrival if no action has been taken as it will not be possible to accommodate groups who present for service who are above the limits.

Limits on households in self catering accommodation

Q: I know that the restrictions on household gatherings have changed from a maximum of 6 people from 2 different households, with children under 12 exempt. Households are no longer to permitted to meet with other households in private homes. How does this affect me as a accommodation provider?

A: Self-catering holiday accommodation is within the definition of a private dwelling  for the purpose of these regulations and from 25 September all types of self-catering accommodation may only be used by a single household (or recognised extended household). The one household per house rule applies to all properties regardless of size and location. The one household rule per self-catering premises is now a legal requirement and every individual must follow the rules. 

Q: I run a hotel, guest house, boarding house/bed and breakfast. What does the new regulations mean for me i.e. can two unrelated people (eg travelling workmen) share a twin room?

A: Hotels, guest houses, boarding houses and bed and breakfasts are excluded from the definition of private dwellings, and may continue to accommodate groups of up to six from no more than two households. There should be no sharing of rooms between members of different households, and there must be provision for physical distancing with separate households within a group, as well as between groups. This also applies in byunk houses and other forms of hotel accommodation. There should be no unregulated mixing between households, and any shared space (for example a kitchen/lounge that might previously have operated on a shared basis).

Q: I have self-catering forward bookings, for two households to stay together in my property, what should I do? 

AIt is the responsibility of individuals in the first instance to ensure they are following the rules so those who have made the booking should be in touch to discuss alternatives. If not you should review your bookings and where necessary make contact to discuss alternatives. This may mean a cancellation but may also mean retaining the booking, so only a single household comes, in order to comply with the new rules. You should proactively check forward bookings to avoid difficult situations on arrival if no action has been taken, as it will not be possible to accommodate groups of more than one household (or one extended household). As a business you should ensure your booking system is arranged so that it does not accept bookings that exceed these numbers. A simple step is to ensure staff who are taking calls for bookings are asking the right questions, including – is everyone from not more than 1 household? Businesses should not accept bookings from groups that are clearly exceeding the limit.

Q: Due to the fact that only one household can come my clients now wish to cancel their booking. What should I do?

A: We continue to expect the industry to abide by the standards of good practice we have seen so far through the pandemic, and follow the CMA guidance with regard to refunds, cancellations, and rescheduling. In line with CMA guidance, a full refund should be offered to customers who booked holiday homes but could not stay in them due to lockdown restrictions. The Scottish Government recognises the difficult position that many holiday companies will find themselves in at present. The regulation of consumer protection is the responsibility of the UK Government at Westminster. The Competition and Markets Authority have issued guidance to businesses and consumers about refunds.

Q: My booking is from visitors from England/elsewhere, where the rules are different? Which rules should they abide by? 

A: All families, taking a self-catering holiday in Scotland, whatever their place of origin would have to abide by the one household per house rule. 

Q: What if people travelling from Scotland are going to stay in self-catering accommodation in England? 

A: Scottish people going to holiday in England, would fall under English regulations, and this is the case for other UK nations and overseas, however where these rules are different from Scotland consideration, people are urged to think hard about the public health implications, and if travelling outside the UK, the potential quarantine implications.  

Q: Can two families stay in adjacent self catering properties?

A: Yes, two families could stay in two adjacent self-catering cottages as these are two houses.

Q: If I have two families arrived yesterday in my self-catering cottage do I need to send them home?

A: If people arrived to self-catering prior to the regulations coming into force, you do not need to send them home immediately if they are two families – just use common sense, and urge them to be careful. All future bookings must comply with regulations. 

Q: If I am a self-catering operator and offer to give breakfast, could I then have two households?

A: No, not if this is in one house. It should be one household. This would clearly be a contrivance to circumvent the rules. It is a legal requirement to follow the rules. We expect this to happen and people to be sensible. 

Q: I run a yacht charter business. Can I still operate?

A: Any accommodation, regardless of format, that is used to for overnight accommodation on a self-catering basis, is treated as a private dwelling, for the purpose of these regulations, and therefore covered by the one household, to one house rule. This includes boats. You can continue to operate within the one household one house limit. 

Face coverings in hospitality

Q: What is meant by ‘when seated and during service’ – does this mean people have to wear a face covering if not actually eating food or drinking?

A: No, once seated at a table people can remove their face covering. The intention is to mitigate the risks where it may be more difficult to keep physically distanced from others such as when entering, exiting and moving around a premises i.e. using the bathroom.

Q: What if customers are not complying with the rules – what should I do?

A: The responsibility is, in the first instance, on the individual to follow the rules. You should offer advice to customers to follow the rules and use the available resources from government to display key messages for hospitality on the premises. If non-compliance is deliberate and persistent you may wish to refuse service. Everyone is expected to play their part to ensure risk is kept to a minimum and help keep businesses open.

Q: The rules say staff are now required to wear face coverings – does this mean every member of staff?

A: Only public facing, front of house staff are required to wear face coverings. There is an exemption for staff who are more than 2 metres away from the public of are behind a suitable screen, so this covers the likes of kitchen staff and back of house roles.

Q: if a customer claims to be exempt from wearing a face covering for health reasons should we ask for proof?

A: There are certain exemptions from wearing face coverings – if a customer claims to be in this group you should accept their explanation.

1m physical distancing

Q: Does the exemption from 2m to 1m physical distancing in bars and restaurants also apply to staff only areas such as kitchens and, if so, what mitigation measures are required?

A: The exemption applies across the premises. The legislation requires that businesses take all reasonable measures to ensure that physical distancing is maintained. A risk assessment should be undertaken to ensure that suitable controls are implemented. These issues should be discussed with employees as detailed in the Scottish Government sectoral guidance .

Q: I want my business to operate with physical distancing of less than 2m, what do I need to do?

A: In order for the physical distancing requirement to be reduced to 1m businesses must be able to demonstrate that they have implemented additional mitigation measures over and above what would be required to operate at 2m to minimise risk. The additional measures must be in place prior to the distancing requirement being reduced. We have published guidance to help you carry out the necessary risk assessment. As a reminder, the legislation requires that businesses take all reasonable measures to ensure that physical distancing is maintained.

Q: Would this apply to my external area too?

A: Yes, provided that similar additional control measures are in place within the external area.

Q: What kind of additional mitigation measures would be acceptable?

A: By carrying out a new risk assessment process you, as a business, will be able to identify additional mitigation measures that can be applied to your premises. The focus must be how you ensure 1m physical distancing is maintained in all areas, as well as additional protections for staff. Examples of measures that would be deemed to be acceptable include:

  • increasing the frequency of air changes within the ventilation system and open windows/doors where possible
  • review layouts, including installation of physical barriers (Perspex screens etc.) where 1m physical distancing cannot be met
  • face coverings for front of house staff (mandatory)
  • requiring customers to remain seated whilst on premises with no standing at bar areas
  • enhanced cleaning arrangements (require to be documented)

The above list is not exhaustive. A number of the measures above may need to be combined, depending upon individual premises. The decision-making process should be documented and retained on site. 

Should you wish to discuss a specific proposal further you should contact your local Environmental Health Service for advice. 

As of 14 August background music and sound from TVs is not permitted as a precautionary measure to reduce noise levels and prevent the raising of voices. This measure is being kept under review and further updates will be provided in due course.


Q: Can my customers queue at the bar?

A:  There should be no queueing at bar areas. Though table service is the preferred model at this time, where processes require customers to order at the bar only one individual should approach order points at a time to avoid the forming of queues. You will need to develop systems to ensure there is no queueing at the bar. Customers who are served at the bar should be directed to return to their seat and not to drink at the bar.

Q. Can my customers queue for to use toilet facilities?

A. Yes. Toilet facilities must be managed carefully and it is recognised that this may require at times the need for customers to queue in a physically distanced and orderly manner to allow facilities to be used safely. Space should be identified for this away from seated areas that can ensure physical distancing and that do not encroach on passage ways. Customers should be wearing face coverings when not seated.

Q: What measures should I put in place to make sure that customers queue safely outside my premises?

A: If necessary, external queuing should be organised in a way that facilitates physical distancing. The use of markers either on the wall or ground identifying where an individual should stand is encouraged. Where family groups are waiting together they should try not to encroach on others within the queue. It may be necessary that family groups take up two spaces within the queue to ensure sufficient distance is maintained from others. 

Should queuing become problematic and block the footpaths or cross neighbouring premises consideration will need to be given to the implementation of an alternative arrangement for example; taking a contact number and calling when a table is available. 

The maximum number of people attending in groups should be in accordance with the Scottish Government guidance. 

Q:  My restaurant has booth seating in place. Can I safely use all of them or do I need to alternate their occupancy to maintain distancing?

A: Where booth seating is fixed and individuals from different parties are seated back to back there is no need to alternate occupancy. It may be necessary to modify the height of the seat backs to above head height, this will provide additional screening. Movement within premises should be minimal and customers should adhere to government guidelines on physical distancing and respiratory etiquette whilst on the premises.

Q: I have put in additional mitigation measures necessary to reduce physical distancing in my premises to 1m. Is it possible to have tables located at 1m apart provided that customers are seated back to back or do I require to put in screening?

A:  Where possible some form of separation should be put in place, this could be in the form of a screen or a planter. The purpose of this being to prevent one table encroaching into the space of another. Another alternative would be to increase the distance between tables to 1.5m which will allow for the customers to move in and out of their seats without bothering neighbouring tables.

Where installing physical separation measures, such as screens, care should be taken to ensure that these items do not become a hazard in themselves. Screens should be securely fixed in place to ensure that they cannot fall over. Where fixing items to the floor these should not present a trip hazard. It is also very important to ensure that emergency exits and escape routes are kept clear and free from obstruction.  

Q: Do I need to display a sign notifying customers they are entering a 1m physical distancing zone?

A: Yes, this should be displayed clearly at entry points and throughout the premises – signage should state that "this is a 1 metre physical distancing zone – follow the advice of staff and observe physical distancing 

Q: My premises covers multiple floors.  Can I have one floor where 2m distancing is maintained and the other with 1m?

A: This is possible as long as the appropriate measures are taken in line with guidance for operating at either 2m or with the 1m exemption.

Physical alterations

Q: If I am modifying my premises to include screens, how high do these have to be?

A: There is no minimum height required, however, when installing consideration should be given to whether customers will be seated or standing in the areas where the screens are to be located. The installation of a screen is to act as a physical barrier between individuals therefore it is important to ensure that it will extend to a sufficient distance in all directions.  Where the installation is in addition to additional mitigation measures (facial coverings, visors for staff etc.) it may be that smaller screens can be installed. 

It is strongly advised that the decision making process be documented.

Sanitary facilities

Q: Do I need to reduce the number of toilets/urinals in use within my premises?

A: The provision and use of sanitary facilities within your premises will require to be risk assessed. 
If, as a business, you wish to retain use of all urinals within the premises the following requires to be in place and evidence available to demonstrate the steps are in place;

  • increasing the number and frequency of air changes in the ventilation system
  • enhanced programme of cleaning and replenishment
  • regular monitoring of capacity within toilet facilities
  • where 1m cannot be maintained then screens should be provided

In all other circumstances physical distancing must be maintained.

Q: The toilet cubicles within my premises have full height partitions and mechanical ventilation – can these continue to be used as normal or do I need to close some off?

A: Where cubicles are fully enclosed and there are sufficient air changes per hour they can continue to be used as normal provided that there are enhanced cleaning arrangements in place. 

Sport and entertainment

Q: Can I show sport or other programmes on TV?

A: Sporting events can continue to be shown on televisions within licensed premises but without volume, however the showing of sport should not be an 'event'.  Where high profile sport is to be broadcast it is recommended that this be risk assessed and sufficient controls implemented to ensure that customers do not gather around televisions or congregate in areas of the premises. 

Raised voices, along with the likelihood of people having to get closer to one another to be heard, present an increased risk of transmission and must be avoided. 

Q: Can I turn on the jukebox on the premises?

A: No, there should be no background music played in hospitality premises at this time. 

Q: Can I play background music from staff controlled devices?

A: No, there should be no background music played in hospitality premises at this time. This measure is being kept under review and further advice will be provided in due course.

Q: When will the review of background sound be completed?

A: Work is still underway on this issue but the current situation with increasing infection rates and the need for further measures means this is going to take longer than initially envisaged. We must respond the situation as it unfolds and deal with immediate priorities but the review will be concluded in due course.

Q: Can I turn on the fruit machines on the premises?

A: Yes. As of 24 August fruit machines are permitted but they must be risk assessed. They should be subject to robust cleaning procedures, ensure physical distancing can be observed and are not located in thoroughfares. Procedures and customer communications should ensure that no crowding can result from the use of these facilities and that noise levels are kept low with no shouting.  

Q: Are customers allowed to use games tables i.e. pool?

A: Yes. As of 24 August pool/games tables are permitted but must be risk assessed. As with fruit machines there should be systems in place to ensure robust cleaning and no crowding i.e. only two players at any time physically distancing at 1 metre.  Consider keeping balls and ques behind the bar so they can be cleaned between use and provide communications to customers to observe physical distancing and not to share ques before cleaning. Customers may also consider wearing face coverings when playing for added protection. 

Q: Are customers allowed to play games likes dominoes and darts?

A: Darts may be played if there is a dedicated space for play away from thoroughfares i.e. separate room, and where there is adequate space to ensure physical distancing along with risk assessed robust cleaning procedures, with no sharing of darts.  Where this is not possible then it will be necessary to refrain from darts play at this time. Dominoes is not possible at this time.  Proximity of players and the need for sharing of game pieces makes this activity too high risk.  

Q: We are famous for our quiz night, can we still host this?

A: Absolutely, although it may need to take a different form than before. For example, picture rounds could be shown on the television rather than providing teams with a sheet, participants encouraged to bring their own pen and papers returned at the end of the quiz rather than at the end of each round as this will reduce the need for customers to move around the premises. 

Q: We have a selection of books and toys available for children to use whilst on the premises.  Can we no longer offer these? 

A: There is no requirement for children under 12 to physically distance from one another, however, objects such as toys and books could present a vector for infection, therefor provision of such items is discouraged. As an alternative, colouring sheets, pencils or crayons could be made available on request. Where toys are to be made available it is recommended that these be made of plastic or other readily cleanable materials and that they be included on the cleaning schedule for the premises.

Q: My business is operating with an extended external area, can we bring in a DJ to play music within this area?

A: It is not possible for this sort of outdoor event to take place at this time. Further advice will be available as Scotland’s route map develops.

Q: Under normal circumstances we are an events venue, however we have been operating our external events spaces as a beer garden since restrictions were eased. Can we continue to use this space as a beer garden Monday to Thursday but host live outdoor events at the weekend with the relevant distancing in place? 

A: You must follow the relevant guidance for the intended use of the space – for a beer garden this is hospitality guidance, for and event then events guidance must be followed. It cannot be a combination of both i.e. run an event at 1m physical distancing. You should consult your local environmental health team prior to staging a live outdoor event to ensure it is suitable for the local conditions.

Q: Are we allowed to host a silent disco (day or night) where customers wear headphones to participate?

A: Stand up events are not possible in hospitality - limited seated adaptations of these types of activities have resulted in singing and shouting in premises, and physical distancing not being observed, which present an increased transmission risk. It is therefore not recommended to offer these limited sit down activities at this time.

Test and Protect

Q: Test and Protect – should I be retaining the contact details of individuals who visit my premises for business reasons e.g. trades people, environmental health staff, etc.?

A: Yes, where an individual is on the premises for any length of time they should be asked to provide details in the event that they are required for contact tracing purposes

Q: We have put in Perspex screens between booth seating, does this prevent customers from being identified as a close contact in the event a positive case has been on the premises?

A: The provision of mitigations such as Perspex panels will be taken into consideration during the risk assessment undertaken by the contact tracer. We cannot give absolute guarantees of exemption from a request to self-isolate but mitigations are taken into account.

Q: How long does a person have to be on my premises before I am required to take their details for T&P?

A: Contact details must be taken from customers and visitors on arrival regardless of how long they are on the premises.

Q: Where a waiter is serving a table over the course of their time in a restaurant and frequents the table on a number of occasions for less than 1 minute per time, would they still be considered a close contact for tracing purposes? 

A: Any amount of face to face contact makes it possible for someone to be identified as a close contact, however the wearing of face coverings and other mitigations being implemented are considered by contact tracers when risk assessing potential virus exposure and any requests to self-isolate which follow.

Q: Who is eligible to ask for the T&P information?  Can I provide this to Environmental Health Officers? 

A: Information can be provided to Environmental Health staff where they are undertaking an investigation into a confirmed case or cluster associated with the premises. Where information is provided this will be passed to the Test and Protect team for contact tracing purposes and not retained by the Local Authority. 

It is not anticipated that Environmental Health staff would request this information outside of an investigation. 

Q: What details should I retain for T&P purposes?

A:  Information that requires to be retained for customers and visitors:

  • name of each customer, or when customers are attending as a small household group, the contact details for one member of that household group – a ‘lead member’
  • a contact phone number for each customer, or for the ‘lead member’ of a small household group
  • date of visit, arrival and where possible, departure time

For larger establishments, and where possible, it is also helpful to record table numbers of sections where customers were seated

Q: What should I do if become aware or either a customer or member of staff testing positive for COVID

A: In the first instance call your local environmental health or health protection team for advice. The Test and Protect team will be in contact with the individuals and will escalate should it be necessary.

Live outdoor events

Q: Limited live outdoor live events are now permitted – can I use my outdoor hospitality space to put on a live event?

A: We understand that there is an interaction between live events and other areas, including licensing and hospitality. The events guidance sets out that the outdoor events may not take place in general hospitality areas, such as beer gardens, that are currently operating for the serving of food and drink and are subject to a 1 metre physical distancing exemption. Premises using outdoor spaces within the hospitality guidance, including for the service of food and drink at 1 metre physical distancing, may not provide live or background music at this time.

If however premises wish to adapt outdoor spaces for live events within the terms of the events guidance then it will be necessary for planning to take account of local conditions, such as potential noise intrusion to local areas and how such events need to be reflected in operating plans – as well as the need for any activity to ensure 2 metres physical distancing is possible.  Businesses should engage with their local environmental health teams to discuss whether proposed events would be suitable for local conditions. Businesses must not seek to blend outdoor hospitality spaces with live events at this time – these are two separate operations covered by separate guidance and rules on physical distancing.

Date last updated: 24 September 2020


Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

First published: 24 Sep 2020 Last updated: 24 Sep 2020 -