By Kristy Dorsey

Proposals have been put together for the construction of a £1 million glass house over a section of Argyle Street in Glasgow’s West End that would allow adjacent bars and restaurants to re-open under social distancing measures.

The plans are being spearheaded by architect John MacLeod, owner of the Crabshakk restaurant in Finnieston. It would cover the block between Kelvingrove and Derby streets, and has been provisionally dubbed “Finnieston Green”.

“Currently the Government is furloughing our way off the cliff edge,” Mr MacLeod said. “Huge sums of money in our stretch of businesses alone are being spent to avoid mass redundancies, but that can not last and there has to be a way to re-open.

“If social distancing continues, most if not all the businesses in this strip will be mothballed or may fold. The only way to regain public confidence is to increase space and offer acceptable protection.”

READ MORE: Landmark Glasgow property built in Victorian era up for sale, with hotel potential flagged

The proposals come as hospitality representatives have warned that thousands of pubs and restaurants will not be financially viable if forced to re-open with significantly restricted capacity.

Under the First Minister’s long-awaited roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in Scotland, pubs and restaurants could open in outdoor spaces from the end of June. Depending on the course of the disease and scientific guidance, indoor spaces could open for custom around the middle of July.

However, at all stages customers would be required to stay two meters apart from fellow customers and staff. Physical distancing at that level would force many establishments down to just 25% of their usual capacity, making them unviable.

Establishments in many European cities have made the shift outdoors through street closures, but Mr MacLeod said the Scottish climate meant it would only be realistic in this country if there is protection from the weather.

READ MORE: Woes at David Urquhart show depth of challenge facing Scottish tourism

Finnieston Green has been described as a “fascinating initiative” by Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Philip Braat, who is Labour councillor for the Finnieston area.

“There are issues of planning, funding and community involvement, but it is very much worth exploring,” Mr Braat said in an initial response. Mr MacLeod said he expects to have a more detailed discussion with the Lord Provost in the next few days.

Public funding is being sought to finance the capital costs, which Mr MacLeod said would be far less than the price of multiple establishments going to the wall.

“The perspective is that furloughing for our little strip alone is costing around £2.5m,” he said. “If that turns into unemployment, the costs will be far greater.

“The alternative is that, for a relatively modest outlay, businesses can re-open, jobs saved and people will start enjoying themselves again.”

READ MORE: Aberdeen bar group bids for ‘mighty’ comeback

Leaders in the hospitality industry say the predicament of trading while observing social distancing will be particularly pronounced for the many small pubs and restaurants in the Scottish trade, including fashionable areas such as Finnieston, where many popular bars and restaurants have been developed on the ground floor of tenement buildings. There are also concerns that physical distancing requirements will make it impossible to create the atmosphere that it vital to successful trade.

Mr MacLeod said Glasgow-based interiors company Graven Images has developed an internal design that will adhere to social distancing requirements while also maintaining the vital sense of atmosphere.

Finnieston Green would cover a total of 800sq metres, providing 10 bays of approximately 72sq metres each into which businesses could expand. Mr MacLeod said that would provide enough space for pubs and restaurants to maintain a level of covers that would keep their businesses financially viable.

If funding and the necessary planning approvals were to fall into place quickly, Mr MacLeod said Finnieston Green could be in place by late summer or early autumn. However, he conceded there are a number of traffic and planning hurdles to overcome.