by Colin Campbell
DRINK, life and money returned to Inverness city centre in the first weekend of pubs reopening for nights out – but many people chose to stay at home.
With revellers not descending on the precinct in numbers there was no explosion of relief and joy that socialising was back on the agenda again.
Between 10pm and 11pm when these pictures were taken much of the city centre was almost deserted.
The main cluster of activity was centred in Church Street around Wetherspoons, Hootannanys, and the Black Isle Bar, all of whom were busy.
The remainder of the precinct was very quiet.
The main weekend clientele for the centre is younger people in the 18 to 30 age group and there were some extravagant reunions among lockdown-lost friends.
As one micro dressed young blonde woman yelled to a female pal in church Street as she gripped her in a heartfelt embrace: “It’s ******* great to see you again you wonderful ****.”
And as the night progressed from a subdued start around 10pm the volume ratcheted up and the raucousness increased.
But numbers overall were well down from normal. And throughout the evening some streets – including High Street and Academy Street – were virtually empty.
Some people may have found they don’t miss pubs as much as they thought they would. Or they’re staying away because they’re not yet ready to enter places which would in normal times be crowded.
These reservations could take some time to overcome. The conundrum – as with so many others in the emergence from lockdown – is that many of those who did go to bars would have been assiduous in wearing face masks in stores earlier in the day.
Younger people, well aware that the virus threat has not gone away, have made much more use of masks from day one of lockdown, in contrast to older people who have been reluctant to wear them.
But from face-masked supermarket in the afternoon to potentially busy pub at night is quite a stretch.
Any vague hope that social distancing would be maintained proved no more than an aspiration that was never going to be fulfilled. Drink and social distancing do not mix.
The city centre was a social-distancing free zone, the first to emerge since lockdown ended.
On the west side of the river the Tarry Ile closed before 11pm, the Glenalbyn had a smattering of customers and the normally packed Encore Une Fois had many empty tables.
The Rocpool restaurant was busy but not seemingly full to capacity.
Inverness news and views photographed the eerily silent and empty streets on the first Friday night after lockdown in a memorably strange and unsettling experience.
Every weekend night since then the centre has been depressingly silent and lifeless, a dispiriting place best avoided.
Some limited activity returned there on Friday and Saturday night and the number of people going there may gradually rise as people readjust in the weeks ahead.
All pubs closed around midnight and by 1am on Sunday the city centre streets were deserted. In a regrettable return to form, several young men kicked glasses they’d taken from bars across the High Street, leaving a trail of broken glass.
Some things never change.
But apart from that as with so much else, there seems little likelihood of any swift and fully-fledged return to “normal” – a boisterous city centre from end to end where the noise could be heard a mile away.