by Colin Campbell
FOLLOWING the new lockdown in Aberdeen caused by reckless revellers in pubs who were behaving as if the virus threat didn’t exist, the pressure on publicans elsewhere to act was obvious.
Now one of the busiest hostelries in Inverness, Johnny Foxes, has given a lead on this issue – and it’s not before time this has happened after “free for all” weekend nights in the city when every rule in the book was being flouted.
Johnny Foxes has itself had queues for entry which have been devoid of any trace of social distancing as customers shuffled forward virtually shoulder to shoulder.
If the “rules” were being followed inside the premises, it was certainly a contrast to what was going on outside.
In a social media post to customers they said new measures would apply immediately “in light of the current situation in Aberdeen”.
Customers have been told: “No more than six people per booking FOR FOOD and DRINKS (Limited availability). Please call if you have any queries.
“We are reducing our seating capacity in each area of our venue.
“Limited, managed, queuing area (max 4 groups) – no SOCIAL DISTANCING = NO ENTRY.”
And they add: “We encourage you to wear a face mask when visiting our venue at any time when you are not seated at your table.
“Please do not move from your allocated table – get a wee ZOOM meeting organised with your buddies across the bar!
“We appreciate this is not fun but we want to keep our team and our customers safe as we can!”
The diminution of fun is something the establishment’s customers will just have to accept. What matters a lot more is the diminution of risk in spreading the virus.
And these new rules – properly enforced – should clearly play a part in that.
The biggest “wake up call” from the Aberdeen situation, as Nicola Sturgeon put it, is how easily the virus can be spread in crowded pubs.
It is not a sociable scourge which gives hazy revellers a pass. There is a vague theory going around that heavy smokers are somehow less liable to be infected, which may well be nicotine fuelled nonsense. But it has gained some traction among smokers.
But we now know for certain that lager and Bacardi breezers offer no protection whatsoever.
And what’s happened in Aberdeen must have given younger people, even those who are heedless about the risk in weekend pubs (an inexplicable transformation in attitude which sets in after they remove their Saturday afternoon store face masks) at least some pause for thought about the wisdom of plunging into the city centre social scene.
Even pubs like Johnny Foxes which now seem determined to put much more emphasis on the safety of staff and customers are battling against the reality that drink and social distancing don’t mix.
But they should be commended for at least trying to minimise the risk. And they must try very hard indeed.
The alternative could be a repetition of what’s happened in the city closest to the Highland capital, with pubs being blamed for inflicting another devastating lockdown in Inverness, in which any vestige of merriment would be in desperately short supply.