Publicans in Brechin have introduced a booking system and want bar goers to stop “pub crawls” as they hope to ward off a potential coronavirus outbreak linked to hospitality venues.
A group of Angus publicans have been praised after moving swiftly to curb any potential coronavirus outbreak following the spread of the disease that has led to a localised lockdown in Aberdeen, cutting the city off from the rest of Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ordered all hospitality venues in the city to close on Wednesday after a steep rise in cases saw 54 people testing positive, linked to an outbreak at the Hawthorn Bar.
With only 40 miles separating Brechin and Aberdeen and many residents commuting there for work, pub and bar owners have united to introduce their own rules, aimed at ensuring patrons are safe, guidelines are followed and public health is preserved.
Owners of the Bridgend Bar & Lounge, The Caledonian, City Royal, East End Bar & Nova Suite, The Park Bar and Victoria Bar met yesterday to discuss how they could respond, with key actions including asking patrons not to journey from venue to venue on “pub crawls” and the introduction of a booking system.
In addition, due to the close proximity of Aberdeen, they are also requesting residents who have socialised in the city in the last two weeks to refrain from visiting their establishments.
No pub crawls
A spokesman for the group of bars said: “With the current situation in Aberdeen, we realise in our opinion one of the factors for the cluster is a lack of social distancing and people’s movements between several establishments.
“As a result of this we have decided, in the interests of protecting public health and to keep everyone as safe as possible, for the next seven days, we are all implementing a strict booking system and discouraging ‘pub crawls’.
“We realise this might be a bit extreme but after being reopened only a few weeks and it’s been a huge and ongoing learning curve, also with what’s happening just up the road we feel we really have to be proactive and try to prevent the same happening in our small city.
“So please, for the next seven days, phone and book a table. Also, if you’ve been socialising up in Aberdeen in the past couple of weeks please stay at home.”
Scott McNeil from the Bridgend Bar said he believes the measures could become mandatory in the entire country if pubs are to remain open and he is confident that his clientele will embrace them with open arms.
He said: “The Pub Watch Group decided to call an emergency meeting last night when we came up with the term ‘One Pub One Day’ basically on the back of what we have seen in Aberdeen and some of our own experiences. It’s really unacceptable people moving about like they would on a normal weekend on a pub crawl in the current climate.
“We will review it in seven days, but at the moment for us it is very much one pub one day. A big part of licensing is public health so in the interests of that we feel it would help the track and trace in Scotland. You just have to see with all the movement in Aberdeen that their job is a nightmare. We don’t want it to come to Brechin, but if it does hopefully, through this, we can shut down things down a lot quicker.”
Strict booking system
And a key part of these new rules will be a strict booking system if you want to go out for a drink, as pubs must do all they can to avoid a devastating second lockdown.
Scott added: “We were running a booking system and it was getting a bit relaxed and we were allowing walk-ins if there was space. Now we have gone back to a strict booking system – no entry if you haven’t booked. We will also be taking people’s addresses now as well.
“If the pubs were to close again it would be absolutely devastating. A lot of the things that we are bringing in are going to have to be mandatory. You see some of the scenes in Aberdeen, this just can’t be allowed – we can’t have greed killing us.
“I don’t think a lot of pubs would survive a second lockdown – it would be disastrous for everyone!
“I think we are pretty much going the right way, but we have found there are still a lot of customers who don’t want to come back to the pub yet – the confidence isn’t there. We have actually opened to let some guys in one by one just to give them the layout and to let them know what it would look like if they came along for a pint. We need to get the confidence back.
“We are all the same, no one is different. When you get a few alcohols in, the rules do get challenged a bit. That is why we are promoting one pub one day cause you can watch what people are drinking and if they are threatening to move on, and if we think they had too much, we will post it on our closed group Pub Watch page saying: ‘This guy is looking at coming to you and he’s had too much so don’t let him in’.
“I think if other pubs in the area, if everyone does it, then we can stop it coming out of Aberdeen. It’s just a case of doing what you can. Just do enough to survive that is all we are needing to do.”
Brechin MSP Mairi Gougeon has given her backing to the measures being taken by local bars.
She said: “I very much welcome this proactive and responsible initiative given the current situation in Aberdeen.
“The Brechin pubs have looked at where they see the potential problems are in the city and have taken a mature approach in an attempt to address and prevent any local flare-ups. No one wants to see businesses have to close because of the spread of this virus.
“I have been impressed by the measures local licensed premises have introduced in following the Scottish Government guidance. The situation in Aberdeen is a stark reminder that this virus has not gone away and highlights just how quickly and wide it can spread.
“Local hospitality is a vital part of our economy, if we can enjoy ourselves in a responsible way and within a well organised safe environment, we can continue to suppress this virus.”
Brechin councillor Kenny Braes added: “I think this is a fantastic initiative. I have spoken to one of those involved and it’s tremendous to see them being so proactive.
“Many pubs are already complying with the guidelines and they are just going the extra mile to keep the town free of this hellish virus.
“I’m aware as a councillor that there are pubs which have not been doing as well as they should have been in this and it’s really good to see that some are taking it seriously and doing all they can to keep the town safe.”
Commenting on the Caledonian’s Facebook page, residents were supportive of the move and people from other Angus towns added that they believed this move would benefit their pubs too.
Andrea Cochrane said: “Wow, proper community spirit and action. Such a positive thing.”
George McAteer added: “Would like to see this happen in Arbroath as well.”
And Alan Smith commented: “Excellent move, if any Publican from Montrose sees this please adopt similar approach.”