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Pub group boss produces measurements to prove Aberdeen beer tent meets coronavirus rules

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A defiant Aberdeen pub boss has hit back at claims his city centre beer tent flouts coronavirus rules.

Stuart Clarkson lashed out as concerns were again raised about the Draft Project in Langstane Place.

The marquee, built in the footprint of the former Bruce Millers music shop behind its granite frontage, opened only days before the city was hurtled into local lockdown.

There are currently stricter rules in place for the country’s hospitality trade, banning all indoor venues from serving alcohol and enforcing their closure at 6pm.

But outdoor venues – which council officers have confirmed the Draft Project is – can sell alcohol and remain open until 10pm.

Whether a venue is indoor or outdoor is calculated by environmental health and trading standards, assessing whether half the walls have been removed to allow airflow.

SNP city centre councillor Audrey Nicoll has written to the local authority’s chief executive Angela Scott, asking for assurances the Draft Project is safe to be considered outdoors.

Environmental health officers (EHOs) signed off on alterations made at the PB Devco beer tent on Monday, confirming its outside status.

But Mrs Nicoll told The P&J: “A number of folk have been in touch with me as the councillor for the area to say they are worried the Draft Project is an indoor venue, given it appears to have more than 50% coverage so it is only right that the council gives assurances to the public.

“The regulations are quite clear about what constitutes an indoor and an outdoor venue so it should be possible for the administration to provide clarity immediately.”

Stuart Clarkson and son Paul at PB Devco bar, Soul in Aberdeen. Picture by Kath Flannery.

The suggestion his venue did not meet legal standards was met with dismay by the PB Devco director Stuart Clarkson, who produced details of the measurements involved to put the matter to bed.

The two top gable wall pieces at either end of the tent have been removed, as has the entire wall behind the bar.

Esslemont Marquees, which hired out the tent, confirmed that resulted in 1,940 sq ft of open wall space, compared to 1,615 sq ft of remaining wall.

The Draft Project was at the centre of controversy from the off – after it was revealed the licensing application was fast-tracked in order to be open in time for Aberdeen FC’s season opener with Rangers in August.

Licensing board boss Councillor Marie Boulton faced calls to resign after it was revealed she had pushed through the “truncated” process days before telling hospitality bosses at an online summit no applications had been dealt with in that way.

The venue was named one of the 28 nightspots linked to the coronavirus cluster in Aberdeen which forced the three-week local lockdown.

Last night, Mr Clarkson hit back at his critics, saying: “I am disappointed that Councillor Nicoll has contacted the chief executive on hearsay rather than contacting me to visit the premises herself.

“If she had contacted me Councillor Nicoll would have seen first-hand that the Draft Project complied with the legislation.

“As a responsible licensing operator who continues to invest in Aberdeen and who continues to provide employment at this difficult time I cannot understand why Councillor Nicoll did not just pick up the phone to the EHO at Aberdeen City Council.

“If she did, all her queries would have been answered given they inspected the premises on Monday.

“Scottish Government restrictions are having a huge toll on the financial viability of hospitality businesses in Aberdeen and Councillor Nicoll’s energy would be better utilised writing to ministers seeking financial support for the hospitality industry in Aberdeen.”