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.

Hospitality sector statutory guidance

Guidance has been updated following the First Minister’s statement on 4 January.

The following statutory guidance aims to increase hospitality industry compliance with measures to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

It applies as of 14 August 2020 until further notice to businesses operating in the hospitality sector – this includes public houses, restaurants and cafes, including those where they are situated within other premises, such as hotels, visitor attractions and clubs.  It applies to indoor and outdoor spaces and will be kept under regular review.

This statutory guidance also applies to bingo halls and casinos. However, the 1 metre physical distancing exemption only applies to the contained hospitality areas of those premises i.e. the bar, restaurant or café, otherwise these premises must operate with 2 metre physical distancing applied.

This guidance also applies to the new Strategic Framework levels based approach, for which existing mitigating measures apply.

Ban on consumption of alcohol in an outdoor public place from 16 January 2021

The purpose of this measure is to ensure conditions exist to support the overall stay at home requirement and remove potential risks of gatherings taking place, including those focused around the consumption of alcohol outdoors.

The measure applies to all Level 4 lockdown areas. Off-sales of alcohol can continue but as advised previously, all operators, including those in the hospitality sector who are offering a takeaway service should do so according to guidance. Operators should be in a position, if required, to offer advice to remind customers that consumption of their purchase in an outdoor public place is prohibited. Purchases must be taken home as intended.

Read more in the following sections:


Keeping coronavirus under control is an absolute priority for the Scottish Government and all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure risks are kept to a minimum.

Scottish Ministers have the power under regulation 4A(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”), to issue guidance on measures which should be taken in order to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus.

This statutory guidance for the hospitality sector, as an accompaniment to existing sector guidance, is issued under regulation 4A(1) of the Regulations and businesses operating in the hospitality sector are required by law to have regard to this.  Failure to have regard to its terms is a matter likely to be taken into account should it become necessary to take enforcement action under public health legislation.

In addition, under regulation 4ZA of the Regulations, the recording of customer/visitor contact details is now mandatory and must be implemented in all hospitality settings. Relevant guidance has been updated to reflect these changes. Note that regulation 4ZA does not currently apply to bingo halls and casinos, however their industry guidance and practice includes measures for recording customer and visitor contact details.

Undertaking a full risk assessment and implementing the necessary measures to protect staff, other workers/visitors and the public is not optional and must be carried out by all those operating in the hospitality sector. 

We want to see our hospitality sector remain open where possible. This guidance is therefore designed to help the industry mitigate the real and present risk to their businesses, staff and the public from coronavirus.  Compliance failures in even small numbers are a threat to the whole sector and the national effort to deal with the virus.

Guidance is backed up by further enforcement measures to ensure compliance failures are identified and addressed.

All businesses operating in the sector, with the support of their trade bodies and representatives, are requested to give this statutory guidance their highest priority and apply its measures fully.

The measures contained in this guidance are compatible with the additional mitigating measures that are required for hospitality businesses to qualify for the 1 metre physical distancing exemption for hospitality that was announced on 2 July 2020.  It therefore supersedes that earlier guidance.

From Monday 2 November, the following rules apply for the level your local authority areas has been assigned.

Hospitality Measures (socialising rules apply)

Strategic Framework


(restaurants, cafes, bars, public houses)

Level 0

  • Licensing times apply

Level 1

  • 21:30 Last Entry
  • 22:30 Closed

Level 2

  • Alcohol only with main meal
  • 19:00 Last Entry
  • 20:00 Closed

Level 3

  • No alcohol
  • 17:00 Last Entry
  • 18:00 Closed

Level 4

  • Closed


(restaurants, cafes, bars, public houses)

Level 0

  • Licensing times apply

Level 1

  • 21:30 Last Entry
  • 22:30 Closed

Level 2

  • 21:30 Last Entry
  • 22:30 Closed

Level 3

  • No alcohol
  • 17:00 Last Entry
  • 18:00 Closed

Level 4

  • Closed


  • Eating and drinking while seated at tables is required at all levels
  • Takeaways permitted for alcohol and food at all levels, as per existing arrangements, though operators should be mindful of any gatherings developing in the vicinity of their premises following the off-sale of alcohol/food i.e. customers should not loiter in the vicinity to consume their purchase as this is likely to breach current limits for mixing outdoors, particularly in higher level areas - a maximum of 2 people from 2 households.
  • Exceptions (e.g., hospitals, schools, student accommodation, airside premises, and hotel room service and meals for residents) apply at all levels
  • From Friday 8 January inclusive until further notice, it will, with regret, no longer be possible for funeral wakes to take place in hospitality premises

Note: All restrictions will be kept under review to ensure that they remain proportionate and necessary to address the ongoing public health emergency.

Risk-based approach

The risk assessment remains the foundation of your planning for the safe operating of your business.  All businesses must undertake a risk assessment to determine what adjustments are required to operate safely. This will continue to vary depending on the nature of the business and premises. If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write anything down, but it will help if you do so in the event you are asked to explain what measures you have taken.

The key elements of earlier sector guidance are still valid in respect of essential measures to observe physical distancing and ensure robust cleaning and hygiene arrangements are in place. This good work must not be lost, but built on, enhanced and developed where necessary. 

Businesses should therefore review their risk assessment against this guidance, making relevant changes where necessary.  Helpful links and advice on how to complete a risk assessment are available in the assessing risk section of the main sector guidance.

What businesses must do

We know that there is a link between hospitality and the transmission risk of coronavirus. Environments where crowding has become an issue due to poor compliance with physical distancing and or premises exceeding safe capacity are a particular concern.  It is therefore necessary to have enhanced mitigating measures for hospitality.

Mitigating measures are not designed to add unnecessary restrictions to the hospitality experience nor hold back business operations. On the contrary, alongside safeguarding public health, the guidance seeks to help the sector protect itself from even more damaging consequences in the event premises need to close due to there being an outbreak. This is a very real and serious risk that must not be underestimated.

Many of these measures will already exist in your risk assessment as they are part of existing guidance. 

Additional mitigating measures from 14 August 2020

Noise control: loud behaviour

Where customers start to shout or sing this should be challenged. Clear signage can help with messaging to inform customers of expected standards of behaviour. Revised customer guidance and additional communications to accompany this guidance will also highlight these messages to the public.

Queue management

There is an increased risk that physical distancing will not be observed in queues in a hospitality setting, particularly during evenings, and that this can lead to people crowding together, which must be avoided. Except for take-away services and cafeteria/food service settings where queueing must be managed with physical distancing, there should be no queueing inside premises, such as at bars, and systems should be in place to ensure this does not happen. Ordering may still take place at designated points which have been risk assessed, where physical distancing is observed and where queues do not result from the process i.e. systems in place to ensure only one person can approach at any time. 

Steps should be taken to avoid queues outside the premises as much as possible but where unavoidable for safety reasons, measures should be taken to ensure physical distancing. Exceptions would include small businesses such as cafes providing takeaway services or where numbers of customers turn up simultaneously and need to be held in line for a short period of time until they can be safely checked in. Holding people in line generally to wait for others to leave and make space is not a valid reason. Businesses who already have strong measures in place to manage external queues with physical distancing should retain these for when they may be needed for safety reasons. 

Mandatory collection of customer/visitor contact details to support Test and Protect

This is no longer voluntary for hospitality settings – Customer detail collection guidance has been updated on specific actions, and businesses should review their arrangements to ensure they are compliant.

Existing measures

One metre physical distancing relates to hospitality premises already applying additional mitigating measures to use this exemption, otherwise 2 metres applies i.e. to playing areas in bingo halls and casinos.

Physical distancing

Everyone visiting a hospitality setting must remain at least 1 metre apart from the next person, unless from the same household or a carer. On playing areas in bingo halls and casinos 2 metres must be observed. Businesses must review layouts and take all reasonable measures to ensure  requisite spacing, including back to back and or side to side arrangements between seated groups, using physical separators/screens where necessary and or one way systems.

Physical distancing, capacity management and no crowding

Businesses are reminded that capacity should be determined by the need for physical distancing and numbers must not exceed safe limits.  Systems should be in place to safely manage capacity to avoid overcrowding. It is essential that crowding in general is not permitted. This is an identified risk and must be avoided at all times. Businesses should challenge any occurrence of crowding and remind customers of their duty of care to the business and each other by observing physical distancing.

One metre zone signage for hospitality settings

It is essential that clear signage is displayed at entry points and throughout the premises to inform customers that they are within a 1 metre physical distancing zone and, most importantly, that everyone is reminded to observe the requirement to remain at least 1 metre from the next person, unless from the same household or a carer. In other settings, apart from public transport and retail, it remains 2 metres.

Cleaning and hygiene arrangements

There should be robust cleaning regimes in place around all shared and hard surface contact areas, including toilets, door handles, tables and chairs and service items. Equally, provision of adequate facilities for regular handwashing or sanitising is a simple and effective measure to reduce the risk of transmission and should be a routine practice in premises, for staff and customers. 

Management of toilet facilities

Management of toilet facilities presents an added challenge and is an area of increased risk, particularly in contained and narrow spaces where physical distancing is difficult. Businesses must include in their risk assessments full consideration of how toilet facilities can be safely managed and used, and implement the necessary measures. Existing guidance on the safe use of toilet facilities will help with this.

Limits to households mixing indoors and outdoors

The limits on households mixing indoors and outdoors apply to all sectors and are critically important. Businesses must ensure staff are aware of the limits when taking bookings and that they are ready to challenge any attempt to make bookings for numbers that clearly exceed the limits. Staff should ask whether limits on mixing of households is being observed when taking enquiries and either reject a booking request which would exceed the limits or offer an alternative for a booking within the limits. Please refer to levels advice for the relevant limits for your area. Where it is obvious groups of walk-in customers are starting to congregate (in either indoor or outdoor service spaces) and exceeding the limits then advice should also be offered on the limits for mixing of households.  Customer guidance has been updated to highlight the individuals’ responsibility in this regard to aid compliance.  For further advice also consult guidance on meeting others

Table service

Table service is now mandatory in hospitality. Systems should be in place to ensure this requirement is met in line with physical distancing and hygiene protocols.

Amusements and games

Facilities like fruit machines and pool tables are permitted in line with the operability of related premises such as snooker/pool halls and amusement arcades. Where these premises are open (see level for your area and Q&A) they may be used but 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. Customers who are not seated in hospitality must wear face coverings. At levels 0-1, 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. Please refer to additional guidance for sectors like amusement arcades and snooker and pool halls for additional information.

Face coverings for customers and staff (from 14 September)

Face coverings for customers and staff is now mandatory when entering, exiting and moving around hospitality. There is an exemption for when customers are seated for the service of food and drink and for back of house roles such as kitchen staff or staff who are behind protective screens separating them from customers.

Face coverings in bingo halls and casinos

Face coverings are required to be worn by customers  in playing areas of bingo halls and casinos, except when consuming food or drink.  Face coverings must also be worn by staff in bingo halls and casinos while they are open to members of the public, except where consuming food and drink, or they are physically separated from customers. See guidance on face coverings for further information.

Improved ventilation

Adequate and good quality ventilation should be standard in indoor commercial spaces – businesses should consider current arrangements and whether additional measures are required to make improvements. HSE guidance on this issue may be helpful.

Adequate provision of key information and training for staff

The sharing of current and good advice is key to cooperation between businesses and their customers and will help the collective effort to keep coronavirus at bay. All reasonable measures must be taken to ensure staff are in possession of key facts to help with overall compliance. This includes the now mandatory requirement to take contact details, reminding customers to observe physical distancing, advising customers on new safe processes for ordering and reminding customers that collective compliance will help protect businesses.

Possible further measures

Guidance will continue to evolve as we learn more about coronavirus and how it behaves in society, and in particular within the hospitality sector.  It may be necessary to introduce further measures in due course if there is evidence to support it, just as it may also be possible to ease current restrictions if the evidence to support that is there. In the meantime, it is of paramount importance that every reasonable effort is made by all to keep coronavirus under control.

What is meant by reasonable measures

What constitutes a reasonable measure can vary within types of premises within the hospitality sector. Businesses operating in the hospitality sector should do all that they can in premises to change the way they work and to change the way premises are used in order to ensure compliance with the rules.

This guidance outlines the considerations that businesses and organisations should take into account in determining the appropriate measures within the individual risk assessments for their premises. It is for those businesses subject to the requirements to justify the reasonable measures that they have adopted and identified in their risk assessments. They will need to be able to demonstrate how they have considered what is reasonable to minimise the risks faced by workers in their workplace and to those entering the premises. As per the sectoral specific guidance we advise employers to consult with their workforce when undertaking a risk assessment and share this within the workforce. This should also follow our fair work statement.

Relevant considerations to deciding whether measures are reasonable

Businesses are entitled to consider:

  • the nature of the work – are the measures practical, or would they so undermine the delivery of the service or undertaking of the business that they would be counterproductive?
  • can measures be put in place without compromising the health and safety of others? If measures would increase the health and safety risk, these would most likely not be reasonable measures.
  • measures should command staff’s confidence that due consideration has been given to the level of risk that they face. Employers may wish to introduce mechanisms to receive feedback on the measures that they have introduced
  • cost – is the cost of the measure proportionate to the number of people whose risk is reduced by the measure?


We expect that businesses and others understand the severity of the situation we are facing as a society and will take the reasonable steps necessary.

By working together, we hopes that employers, employees, supply chain workers and customers can come to a reasonable judgment on the best way to limit close physical contact. It is in all our interests for this to happen so that important work can continue.

Both Police Scotland and local authorities have powers to enforce the restrictions on businesses, services and workplaces imposed by the Regulations. In extreme cases where non-compliance is evidently posing a direct risk to public health a prohibition notice may be served. In addition, we are working with local authorities to strengthen measures that will empower enforcement officials to target risky or non-compliant practices in order to swiftly identity and rectify any issues.


There will be regular reviews of regulations and measures. These reviews provide an opportunity to assess the effectiveness and consequences of the provisions. It will also provide an opportunity to engage with stakeholders from all sectors to inform the process.

In addition, guidance will also be kept under review as we learn more about coronavirus, how it behaves in society and how sectors are performing within existing guidance.

Last updated: 15 January 2021


Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

First published: 15 Jan 2021 Last updated: 20 Jan 2021 -