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Closure of the Illicit Still ‘rubs salt in the wound’ of John Lewis’s departure from Aberdeen

The Illicit Still has announced it is closing
The Illicit Still has announced it is closing

One of Aberdeen’s best-loved pubs has announced it will not reopen after lockdown.

The Illicit Still, on Broad Street, has been shut since Christmas when Scotland went back into lockdown.

But despite many venues now looking forward to reopening late next month, the pub has announced has closed for good.

The homepage of the website now simply says: “Thank you and goodbye.

“Illicit Still is now closed, thank you for your support and custom over the years.”

A spokeswoman for operators G1 Group said: “It has been a very challenging few months for the hospitality sector, and as with all other operators, we have had to really consider the impact across all of our venues.

“G1 do however remain committed to operating in Aberdeen, and have recently completed a comprehensive refurbishment of both bedrooms and function rooms at its Palm Court Hotel, which is due to re-open in summer.”

Another blow for Aberdeen city centre

The news comes just a day after John Lewis revealed it does not plan to open its department store in the city.

Already more than 11,000 people have signed a petition calling for a rethink, with political leaders, city centre bosses and both the Press and Journal and Evening Express backing the campaign.

Stuart McPhee said the news was another blow for the city centre

Stuart McPhee, of Aberdeen Hospitality Together, described it as a “double whammy” blow for the Granite City while North East MSP Liam Kerr warned the city is at “crisis point”.

Mr McPhee said: “It rubs salt in the wound of yesterday’s news that John Lewis is leaving the city centre. It’s another hospitality venue that cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s very difficult, people have ongoing costs at the moment. The timeline for reopening dictates that those with outdoor space can open sooner which is good, but some businesses that don’t have that space, like the Illicit Still – it’s not that kind of venue.

“That pushes some venues a little bit further than the can go.”

Hopes other businesses can hold on until lockdown eases

Mr McPhee is the director of Siberia Bar and Hotel in Belmont Street, which will be revealing its own reopening plans tonight.

He said he hoped other businesses in the city were able to “hold on” and fight back against what has been a near three-month “one-way cash flow”.

He added: “It’s what everyone is thinking ‘what’s going to be left?’ We’re on the right track with the vaccinations and we’ve got the guidelines for April so I’m hopeful more people can carry on until then.”

The Illicit Still, with its caverned walls, was a favourite for real ale lovers and hosted frequent live music nights.

What are the rule changes next month?

The cosy pub, with its caverned walls and frequent live music nights, does not have an outdoor space.

When restrictions ease at the end of next month, alcohol will not be allowed to be served indoors and venues will shut at 8pm. Those with outdoor seating can offer customers a drink and remain open until 10pm.

Some other pubs in Aberdeen, such as The Tippling House, have already announced they won’t reopen until alcohol is permitted indoors, which is May 17.

In full: Here’s when hairdressers, garden centres, pubs and restaurants will reopen in Scotland

Calls for government support for Aberdeen

Liam Kerr

North East MSP Liam Kerr described the closure of the Illicit Still as a “hammer blow” following yesterday’s news about John Lewis and warned the city is at “crisis point”.

“I’m devastated about what’s happening in the city at the moment and urgent financial assistance is needed to stem the tide of these daily closures,” he said.

“These establishments help form the heartbeat of Aberdeen and attract people to come here.

“But the city is now at crisis point and I remain in dialogue with officials to see what can be done to fund an Aberdeen-based recovery programme.”

Mr Kerr raised John Lewis at yesterday’s First Minister Questions, where Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the government would be holding talks with shop and council bosses to support those facing job losses.

She added the Pace initiative would be available for affected employees.

Ms Sturgeon added: “The revitalisation of our high streets is going to be one of the real priorities as we come out of lockdown and out of this pandemic and there is work we will do with local authorities, with the Scottish Retail Consortium to make sure we are taking forward the right steps there.”

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