Scottish Chefs Lament Banned Background Music in Restaurants

The ban on background music in restaurants and bars in Scotland, which became law on the 14th August, is being likened to a”kiss of death” by owners.

According to the Scottish Government the new rule has been enforced because music causes customers to have to “lean in” to be heard thus making social distancing more difficult.

“We don’t want the restrictions in place for any longer than is needed but in order to continue to suppress Covid-19 the clinical advice remains that pubs and bars should have no background music or volume from television,” said a spokeswoman from the Government. “This is because of the increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets when people raise their voices. We continue to monitor this and are working closely with the licensed trade to develop updated guidance based on the best public health advice.”

Peter McKenna, Chef and Co-Owner of The Gannet in Glasgow said

“We have always played background music.  We feel it adds personality to a restaurant and gives people a sense of place.  We have actually carried out an experiment into background music being switched off compared to low level background music.  We found that the noise level was significantly higher with no music as people spoke more loudly to make themselves heard in their groups over a cacophony of voices, this should be taken into consideration re: lifting the ban. Low level music in our opinion moderates the level of noise and can create varying ambiances, changing with time of day and who’s in at any given time.  Our favorites include ambient tracks by Bob Dylan, Zero 7 and William Orbit!”

This has brought uproar from some of Scotland’s restaurateurs and hoteliers. James Thomson, who owns The Witchery Restaurant and Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh, said:

“Having no music at all is the kiss of death in terms of atmosphere for us and there is no logic behind it. This is a nonsense. Very loud music in nightclubs could cause people to lean in to each other but in restaurants background music adds ambience! We need background music to kill the deathly hush as people feel they have to start whispering when a restaurant is quiet. Diners want to eat out in a place with atmosphere not a library.”

Dominic Crolla, of Edinburgh’s La Locanda in Cockburn Street added:

“Background music should be allowed in restaurants. The ban is a disgrace. My customers come to hear classic Italian music while enjoying Italian food but now the atmosphere is ruined. They are just guessing and it just doesn’t add up.”

Matthew Bailey, General Manager of Mortonhall Garden Centre which contains a restaurant that seats 300 said:

“Music enhances the atmosphere in the current climate where people are more uptight and sombre. It softens the mood and relaxes people. We should be allowed to play background music as it creates a feeling of harmony.”