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Scotland fans: Aberdeen pub operator PB Devco facing review of outdoor licences following football fan footage

A north-east pub operator faces having some of their licences revoked following complaints made about footage that showed Scotland fans flouting social distancing rules.

Pub owner PB Devco has faced a backlash from politicians, bar owners and trade representative groups yesterday after videos taken on Thursday night showed large groups of supporters ignoring Covid-19 regulations during Scotland’s crunch match with Serbia.

The footage was taken at both Aberdeen’s Draft Project and the Bieldside Inn.

Police officers arrived the Draft Project, near Bon Accord Street, shortly before 10pm to disperse some fans.

Last night it was ordered to remove its televisions by environmental health officers, by a deadline of 12pm on Sunday.

And, as a result of complaints, the Bieldside Inn will be unable to trade this weekend due to its licence renewal now needing to go before the Licensing Board.

Occasional licences must be renewed every 14 days, and it is understood the venue’s will be considered by members of the board next week.

The Draft Project’s application could also be hauled in front of members with its licence due to expire next week too.

North-east politicians confirmed last night they would be writing to Aberdeen City Council to express their anger at the “irresponsible behaviour” of the venues.

Stuart Clarkson, owner and founder of PB Devco, last night said his organisation had “misjudged” the venues’ ability to cope with the “outbreak of joy at Scotland’s success”.

He added: “Having seen the videos I am shocked, disappointed and saddened. This is simply unacceptable and I can understand why people are so upset by this.

“I will now be carrying out a thorough review of what went wrong and what steps we have to take to prevent any such repeat incidents.

“We truly hoped and believed we could provide a safe way for customers to enjoy this crucial match and that we could do that within the existing regulations. We took all steps we could to fully comply with those regulations.

“With hindsight it is easy to understand the scenes of sheer, unbridled joy. Unfortunately, in the current pandemic, that is not acceptable and we were unable to prevent or contain what happened.”

North-east Labour MSP said Lewis Macdonald said: “If a venue is unable to enforce public health requirements, then either they should not be open at all or they should not have screens showing football matches if they know the size and kind of crowds that will attract.

“It’s simply a matter of responsibility. If people don’t follow the rules and people don’t behave, simply stop serving and switch off the televisions, it’s not that difficult and I’ve seen it done in pubs over the years many times where managers feel things aren’t going the way they should, and simply pull the plug.

Paul Waterson from the Scottish Licenced Trade Association said any licenced premises operating outside the restrictions should feel the full force of the law”.

He added: “Unfortunately, this is what people see. They don’t see the vast majority of places who are really trying to keep within the law and do everything they can to make sure that there premises are safe for customers and staff.”

E-mails between residents and Aberdeen City Council officials, seen by the Press and Journal, show the Bieldside Inn has faced strong criticism from locals dating back to October.

One Bieldside resident, who did not want to be named, said the pub’s outdoor marquee had encouraged excessive drinking, a lack of social distancing and excessive late-night noise.

She said: “It’s so loud at night I can’t even sit down to read a book.

“It’s been a huge problem because of the location – this is a residential area and it seems this is all about selling as much alcohol as you can sell.”

Footage also emerged last night of fans in the Bieldside Inn celebrating loudly after Scotland scored.

Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Liam Kerr said: “The concerns that residents copied me into on Thursday night are deeply concerning.

“Having viewed a video of some of the scenes, it’s appalling and I’m not surprised residents are furious.

“It’s completely unacceptable for neighbours to have to put up with noise and recurring issues that affects the community.

“I will be writing to Aberdeen City Council to ascertain how officers plan to alleviate these concerns going forward and to stop this from happening again.”

Maureen Watt, MSP for Aberdeen South and Kincardine, also announced she would be “seeking answers” from Aberdeen City Council and Police Scotland.

She said: “This is unacceptable and an insult to citizens and businesses who continue to follow the rules responsibly.”

Aberdeenshire Council had previously issued guidance to licenced premises in the region forbidding them from allowing the showing of live sport on television.

The authority argued that under guidance issued by the Scottish Government, live sport should not be shown on television within tier two areas, of which both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire are rated as.

And at 5pm on Thursday, just hours before kick-off, Aberdeenshire Council messaged all premises openly advertising the game that any plans to show the match “ceases immediately”.

Willie Meston, of the Coilacriech Inn near Ballater, said: “We’ve been closed since October 9, because we don’t do food, and if people keep carrying on like what we’ve seen in the videos, we haven’t a hope of hell of reopening.

“It’s just absolutely hellish. The Aberdeen licensing board should be doing something about it.

“I just think it’s absolutely disgraceful.

“I’ve no qualms with how Aberdeenshire has been keeping control of everything, but it seems that it’s Aberdeen City Council’s way of doing things that is rocking the boat for everybody else.”

One healthcare professional who works at ARI said they and their colleagues at the hospital were left feeling distraught yesterday after seeing the behaviour.

They said: “Everyone is really disappointed about last night, as a lot of people watched from home and celebrated safely.

“Just as hope was to move to level one, we feel as if it’s now going to be snatched away and we will be punished because of the actions of the few.

“Moods are very low after this publicised breach, as social media posts can inflame people, and we worry about people saying ‘Well, they’re not following the rules, so why should I?”

They added: “The constant limbo of it is getting really bad, and that’s a lot of pressure to maintain.”

This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.