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Tourist businesses across Arran rolled out the red carpet this week and declared: We’re open.
Wednesday saw the biggest easing of lockdown restrictions so far and the reopening of tourism has seen visitors pouring on to the island after ferry capacity restrictions were eased.
For island businesess the opening could not have been more welcome, with three months of the summer season already lost and a warning that many businesses are already struggling financially.
There has already been a steady stream of visitors in the last couple of days, but that is expected to increase sharply over the weekend, with many hotels full, although operating at a lower capacity.
Many hotels, restaurants, bars, B&Bs, cafes and hairdressers have now opened on the island, all with new screens, hand sanitiser and improved safety measures in place, others are waiting until nearer the end of the month. Some indoor seating areas have been reduced to one metre +, but others remain at two metres. But with shops, takeaways and tourist attractions, as well as self-catering, already opened up, Arran may yet salvage some of the 2020 season.
VisitArran chief executive Sheila Gilmore said it was great to see so many businesses opening up and said it was important to get the ‘welcome to Arran’ message out there.
She said: ‘Arran businesses have been working hard to meet all the new criteria under very difficult circumstances, and it’s great to see so many opening up. Some businesses have completely altered their operations and visitors will receive a warm welcome, and I’m sure they will appreciate the efforts put in by everyone. There are new rules of course, and we would ask everyone to adhere to these rules – wear masks, observe physical distancing, and wash hands regularly as advised.
‘There are still island businesses who are unable to reopen and we can only hope that they, too, will receive everyone’s support as and when they are able to open eventually. It’s strange times for us all, but as always Arran’s resilience will shine through.’
One of those sadly not opening is the Pierhead Tavern in Lamlash, widely known as the PHT. The popular pub, restaurant and music venue states on its website: ‘Regretfully, we have had to make the difficult decision not to reopen the PHT for the foreseeable future.’
Owner Jane Howe explained why the PHT had closed for the time being.
She said: ‘We have taken the decision to close our doors for a short time due to the multitude of uncertainties around the risks in this climate. The unpredictability of the ferries, the low numbers of tourists arriving on the island and the inevitable worry that customers just will not want to socialise within a bar/restaurant are just a few of our concerns.
‘The mitigations to be put in place to ensure customers are safe is a prime concern for us. Our premises are topped with a beautiful roof terrace overlooking Holy Isle plus our stunning garden, but unfortunately, the access is a long narrow route along which it is difficult to socially distance. All of this, along with the loss of live music, which had become a popular and fundamental part of our business, means we need to take time now to “regroup” and take The PHT in a new direction.
‘We have plans to revamp the seating area outside the front of the premises and to open up the building with patio doors in a more continental style of inside-outside dining, with a welcoming street presence. We aim to provide a more bistro style café/restaurant serving delicious varied menus.
‘In the meantime, our premises will be available for private bookings and functions, pop-up dining, along with the possibility of some socially distanced music events once restrictions are eased. We thank you for all your kind messages and support in this difficult time.’
Some small guesthouses and some other business who did not get any funding support have also not reopened.
It should be remembered, however, that the coronavirus pandemic has not gone away, and importantly there are arrangements in place for any new Covid-19 cases which are diagnosed on the island, which has not had a single recorded case for 12 weeks.
Arran’s own testing centre in Brodick is now geared up for visitors and ferry travel can be organised in certain circumstances for Covid-positive visitors so they can return home. A protocol has been developed for this, involving remaining in their car on the car deck, as happened when Arran Covid-19 patients had to travel to Crosshouse. This limits the danger to crew and other passengers, but can only be arranged through the medical team as it is a public health matter.
NHS Ayrshire & Arran is also looking at a protocol for self isolation on Arran if need be – for example if the patient does not have a car – and suitable properties are being investigated for this.
Test and Protect number for anyone eligible for a test on Arran is 01770 601033.
First visitors pour off the ferry at Brodick ferry terminal on Wednesday. 01_B29ferry01
Ali Russell at work at the reopened hair salon at Auchrannie. 01_B29ferry02