BARS and restaurants are battling against coronavirus chaos after the UK Government advised people to avoid social contact to limit the spread of the virus.

With pub customers staying home, owners of local premises have put staff on reduced hours during the week to cope with the financial fallout.

If government formally orders restaurants and pubs to close then owners would be able to claim insurance, but at the moment this ruling has not been made.

Michael Frizzel and Symon Bleasdale, who run Nicolson's in Greenock's West Station, say this is causing uncertainty.

Michael, who opened the popular bar with Symon less than a year ago, is hoping for ongoing government support.

He told the Telegraph: "The Prime Minister is leaving it up to the general public and we've been told that if it is not an official government shutdown, we cannot claim insurance.

"All our normal staff have been stood down during the week and on Friday and Saturday we're operating as normal.

"By Sunday me and Symon will have clocked up 120 hours each.

"I think ministers have to be proportionate to the risk.

"It is very unclear.

"There's lots of pressure on the government to do more but I don't think it matters what they do, they will be criticised."

The pair are hoping that there will be an announcement that the government will freeze business rates and VAT but Michael says he is optimistic that the crisis will be overcome.

He said: "We are prepared to get out the back end of this.

"It's going to be a struggle but we'll survive if the government take the right measures."

Staff at the one of the town centre's oldest pubs, The Black Cat on Laird Street, also reported less customers but say they are sure that their regulars will see them through.

Bar worker Lyndsey Cox said: "It will affect businesses 100 per cent but we're just carrying on the best we can.

"I would prefer that the government would say pubs are closed or should remain open, instead of asking people not to go to the pub.

"Greenock people will decide for themselves.

"We'll have our regulars coming in, that won't stop them.

"The pub's usually busier than this at lunchtime, so some people are staying away.

"The announcement was only made on Monday night and we were busy that night.

"We booked a singer to celebrate St Patrick's Day and our regulars said they'd be coming along."

All eight members of staff at the pub have been told to wear gloves whenever they are serving.

Other successful hospitality businesses in the town are also coming to terms with the immediate uncertainty but bosses say they are determined to protect jobs.

A spokesman for The Exchange Restaurant on Ann Street said: "We are taking this virus very seriously, we have sanitising units and the restaurant is deep cleaned.

"No decision has been made from the government that we should close.

"It puts us in a position, our responsibility is to our staff and to keep them in a job.

"Effectively it is up to the general public whether we stay open or we close.

"There is no direction - in the leisure industry, there are no clear guidelines over what we should be doing."

Meanwhile other businesses are also feeling the effect of the crisis and local children's soft play centre Funworld has already taken the decision to close down for the foreseeable future.

Owner Tom Glancy said: "We noticed people were phoning all last week to see if we were still open.

"Business was down between 50 and 60 per cent, so we made he decision to close."

The move puts 24 jobs at risk and Mr Glancy says discussions are ongoing over what will happen.

Asked if workers would be taking unpaid leave, he said: "We are working that out, to look at the best possible option for them."

On a more positive note Mr Glancy says he has emailed Aubrey Fawcett, chief executive of Inverclyde Council, to offer the local authority temporary use of the premises for a social enterprise.

He said: "We have a large kitchen and restaurant area.

"I know the NHS was looking for premises in Glasgow and we feel we could help in some social capacity."