Pubs, bars and hospitality venues all across the north of Scotland are facing a perilous 16 days of harsh restrictions brought about by the Scottish Government’s latest decisions – however, a number of venues are managing to adapt their services in an effort to soften the blow.
With a ban on selling alcohol indoors, and a 6pm limit on non-alcoholic indoor service inside properties, businesses have devised a number of innovative approaches to help keep staff in jobs and prevent closures.
One such company is Six Degrees North, a Laurencekirk-based craft beer brewery that has bars in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, as well as the Marine Hotel in Stonehaven.
With the prospect of not pouring pints for patrons indoors for weeks, the business has been offering a 20% discount on online sales – and within hours of the First Minister’s announcement on Wednesday, the number of internet orders for the brewery’s beers increased dramatically.
Matt Carrington from the brewery said: “The online sales we noticed are similar to the kind of sales we were seeing back in full lockdown, so it’s been a significant increase.
“From the announcement we were a little bit shocked, but equally we’re just trying to roll with the punches now and get on with things, and adjust our business accordingly.
“It’s been really encouraging with this uptick of online sales, and we really appreciate the support we’ve received so far, because it does go a long way to protect jobs and help us to stay afloat.”
Darren Murray, 31, owns and manages the St Machar Bar in the heart of Old Aberdeen.
He said the new restrictions were a “kick in the teeth”, particularly following the return of students to Aberdeen, but the business will continue to stay open with its small outdoor section, off-licence alcohol sales, and a virtual whisky tasting project where patrons can take away high-quality drams and drink along with bar staff via online streaming at home.
Mr Murray said: “We realised in lockdown that we have an off-licence, and can bottle miniature whiskies ourselves, so why not continue our popular whisky tastings online?
“The announcement was tough. We had finally had the students back, and things were looking positive, in fact we were having to turn away customers because we were at full capacity, which is something a lot of people can only wish for these days.
“But with these restrictions our capacity will be three tables.
“I’m gutted we’re in this position, we’re feeling pretty run down and I’m not looking forward to the next 16 days, we are genuinely exhausted.
“It’s getting uncomfortably close to the bone for us at the moment.”
In the Highlands, the Cromarty Brewing Company has launched a cheeky “Sturgeon’s Stinger” mixed beer box to help boost online orders.
Jennifer Middleton, company secretary, said they are still deciding on whether or not to send a box to Ms Sturgeon.
She said: “This is killing our pub trade, and we’re 80% pub trade, so it’s really going to have a massive effect on our business.
“We wanted to try and catch people’s attention and get some orders, and we’ve had quite a few come in this morning, more than normal, so that’s good.
“But we’re feeling pretty low about the next 16 days.”
The 210 Bistro on Market Street in Aberdeen will today launch its new “Work From 210” scheme, where people sick of staring at the same four walls can pay for wifi, coffee, lunch and snacks and work at one of the business’ socially –distanced tables.
The bistro’s owner Adele Callan said: “There’s been a lot of people working from home for a long time now, and not everyone has a suitable environment at home, so we hope it’s something that will suit some people.
“We decided to just trial it now for Fridays and see how it goes, but we’ve had quite a few bookings already.
“The hospitality industry has bent over backwards to make sure everything is right and everyone is following the rules, so it just feels really unfair to have these even further restrictions put on us.
“The majority of our trade is evening, and that’s been wiped out, so it’s difficult right now.
“Getting through these weeks is a worrying prospect.”