by Colin Campbell
INVERNESS pubs decided not to partake of Nicola Sturgeon’s proposal to set up tables for alfresco style alcohol consumption on the yard-and-a-half wide pavements outside their premises when the latest batch of new rules came into force on Friday night.
The First Minister’s suggestion that they could continue to provide drink after 6pm “provided it was served outdoors” fell flat with no takers.
And that was probably just as well as by 6pm police were patrolling the streets around the city centre checking on bars, and officers would have taken a dim view of having to walk out on the roadways to get round pavement tables laden with booze.
Council officials would have had something to say about it also as they printed out breach of regulation charge sheets longer than their arms.
In the event every city centre pub with the exception of Johnny Foxes, which does have outdoor facilities, was closed by 6pm.
Some had decided it wasn’t worth their while opening at all. They will remain closed for the next two weeks but there is no guarantee Sturgeon’s restrictions will be lifted then either.
On the coldest autumn night so far, her concession that pubs could serve alcohol outdoors seemed to sum up the farce that many see her business damaging and job destroying new restrictions becoming.
During the day pubs will be allowed to remain open provided they become pubs with no beer, and serve only soft drinks.
How many – if any – are likely to take her up on that offer either remains unclear.
After 6pm last night police were going from pub to empty pub in Church Street and elsewhere to ensure regulations were being complied with.
Popular venues like Hootanannys and Lauders were already locked and bolted.
A couple of restaurants remained open but with the alcohol ban applying there also it was clear there were no expectations of many people planning a Friday night out.
By 7pm the city centre once again had the total lockdown look and was virtually deserted.
One of the few pubs where regulars were making the most of the last hour of normality was the Tarry Ile in King Street, with last orders being called at ten to six.
By 6pm customers, were leaving just before the steel shutters came down.
Directly across the street was the Tesco Metro store, with its shelves laden with booze, available for consumption at home indoors, outdoors or wherever purchasers chose.
Yet again stores are liable to be the biggest beneficiaries of the latest lockdown rules with trade from pub regulars who don’t fancy dropping into a hostelry – if they can find one open – for a half pint of tonic water or lemonade.
Pubgoers will be deprived of a pint for the next couple of weeks, at a minimum.
But as a result of the new restrictions bar and other hospitality staff will lose their jobs – permanently.