Hard times for Hoots as it appeals to the crowd

by Colin Campbell

THE Market Bar in Inverness city centre was put up for sale this week at an asking price of £625,000. It’s been a popular haunt over the years but it would be a bold investor who’d pour money into a pub takeover these days. And now Hootanannys in Church Street has launched a crowdfunding appeal in a bid to avoid closure.

Hoots, as its known to aficionados, has long been one of the busiest and liveliest hostelries in Inverness, with musical entertainment as its speciality. The flamboyant owner, Kit Fraser, has attracted a large and boisterous clientele.

If this venue is at risk of going under, the outlook for other pubs clinging on to survival must be be very bleak indeed.

Of course everyone saw this coming. Or at least they recognised the fact that pubs were out on their own when it came to coronavirus closure vulnerability. That ranged from those who never go into them to those who’re never out of them and everyone in between. And no doubt publicans and owners most of all.

Before their July reopening chatter was everywhere that booze and social distancing and the virus rules just wouldn’t mix. And so it proved. And those responsible for trying to enforce those rules could do everything in their power to try and ensure they were adhered to and still they would fall short. And the busier the boozer the more difficult or well nigh impossible the task.

They might have pulled through but the much anticipated second wave was the killer. And kill off some if not many pubs it undoubtedly will.

Will the Hootanannys crowdfunding appeal work? Will punters be prepared to dig into their pockets to keep a pub alive? We might hope so for the sake of the jobs involved at least. But in terms of charitable donations, it’s some way removed from Oxfam or Guide Dogs for the Blind.

But it’s clear stricken pubs need not look to Nicola Sturgeon for salvation. She’s made it clear that they are at the very bottom of the heap when it comes to her coronavirus priorities. And the reality is that many would not disagree with her on that ranking.

Good luck to the owners of the Market Bar. Good luck to Hootanannys.

But I imagine virtually everyone who owns a pub would sell up and get out right now if there were likely to be any takers.

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