Coronavirus crisis grips city
by Colin Campbell Friday, March 20
INVERNESS city centre – the raucous weekend entertainment hub of the Highlands – tonight resembled a ghost town.
Streets were deserted and only a small handful of pubs were open in a precinct normally packed with revellers, door stewards, street pastors and police.
If any final evidence was needed that, for the time being at least the world has changed unrecognisably, this was it.
And anyone who believed many young people would ignore advice to stay away from pubs and clubs in the current situation and still head out for their weekend nightlife fix was proved wrong.
Extending from Inverness High Street in all directions the streets were virtually empty.
At 10pm on High Street itself, in Church Street, and in Baron Taylor’s Street, there wasn’t a soul to be seen.
Normally teeming with noise and life on a Friday night at that time, they were shrouded in silence and darkness.
Usually crowded pubs like Encore Une Fois and Lauders were closed, two among many which were shuttered up.
Earlier in the week the government advised people to stay away from pubs and restaurants to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, although there was no order to close.
In advance of the weekend it was impossible to gauge the likely reaction of younger people who normally throng the city centre on Friday and Saturday nights, with some travelling there from well outwith the Highland capital.
But last night that advice was comprehensively heeded.
However, the weekend intake of alcohol did not entirely plummet. Supermarket shelves were last night virtually empty of many brands of beer and spirits.
Well-known venues like the Gellions and Johnny Foxes were open, and they had customers, but many less than usual.
The next development may be that – as in Italy, Spain, France and other countries – pubs are ordered to close down by law.
But the huge majority of weekend revellers in Inverness have decided to make alternative arrangements in any case.
Normal service in the city centre among pubs which survive the current crisis will at some stage resume. But no-one knows when. And it’s apparent the surreal Friday night atmosphere in the near-deserted precinct is set to become the ongoing rule rather than the exception.