Pubs are still paying the price for the free for all fiasco which erupted in July

by Colin Campbell

THE owner of riverside pub Johnny Foxes has called for supermarket sales of alcohol to be banned to help the hospitality industry survive.

Don Lawson…desperate plea.

Don Lawson presumably knows that is not going to happen. The era of prohibition belongs to a turbulent period of US history in the 1920s, and will remain there.

But Mr Lawson’s widely publicised appeal is indicative of the desperate situation the hospitality industry and the licensed trade in particular is facing.

Why is Nicola Sturgeon now so determined to apply rules to pubs which claim they are being unfairly penalised and used as scapegoats?

The answer to that is surely related to what happened after she allowed them to reopen on July 15.

What followed was a free-for-all – an utterly predictable one – in which revellers piled into nightlife as it used to be and in most cases threw all caution to the winds.

We reported on it here at the time. As we said, during the day on Fridays and Saturdays face masks were everywhere and social distancing and caution applied in full measure.

But at night, once you crossed the Ness Bridge, you were entering a bizarrely contrasting “virus free zone”.

There was no semblance of social distancing. At the busiest premises people queued shoulder to shoulder to gain entry, with stewards standing around making no attempt to try and enforce it.

Outside the hugging and kissing and general hoopla was everywhere on the streets.

The same would have been happening across Scotland. And then a pubs-related outbreak of the virus in Aberdeen forced the Granite City into lockdown.

After that, it seemed they got their act together and the situation became much more orderly. But I’ve no doubt Sturgeon was seriously spooked by behaviour after reopening and that still influences her decisions now.

Not so long ago it seemed Johnny Foxes – the most popular boozer in the city – was so busy with so many people eager to buy expensively priced cocktails and other drinks that it could hardly fail to turn a hefty profit.

How times have changed. Mr Lawson’s “ban supermarket drink sales appeal” was based on desperation. And I’ve no doubt that was not only desperation to keep bringing in profits but desperation to avoid seeing valued staff thrown out of work.

How long pubs will be subjected to what they consider draconian and unfair restrictions is unknown. Just now the city centre at night is effectively in lockdown, as bleak and empty as it was in April and May. It is a sad spectacle.

Johnny Foxes will no doubt get through this situation. But some other hostelries will surely not survive.

In some cases, it’s a mystery as to how they’ve managed to survive up to now.

The reality is on the current restrictions rollercoaster they will open up again and then at some stage may be forced to close again. Before all this began some were struggling to survive and in the current situation some will be doomed.

Whatever else changes after this is all over – whenever that may be – the pub landscape of Inverness will have changed for good.

The city centre will at some stage regain its nightlife and its revellers and its buoyancy. But in terms of empty premises which were once fountains of flowing alcohol and good cheer, it will not be the same again.

And that’s because pubs are still paying the price for the “social distancing and alcohol don’t mix” fiasco which erupted in July.

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