Tayside pub owners have been warned to be on their guard against desperate drinkers fabricating funerals in order to enjoy an indoor pint.
It is understood pub-goers missing their local have been going to extreme lengths to get back to propping up the bar amid the coronavirus clampdown, including hiring function halls for fake wakes.
It comes after the Scottish Government imposed severe new restrictions on bars and restaurants last week, including banning indoor alcohol sales for 16 days.
Exemptions include for significant “life events” including weddings and funerals, when up to 20 guests can be sold alcohol until 10pm.
The Courier understands at least one pub in Dundee has been made aware of the scam.
Angus-based expert licensing solicitor Janet Hood hit out at the sham mourners for deceiving landlords during an already difficult time.
She said: “It’s a simply stupid thing to do and I would recommend nobody carry on in this irresponsible way.
“It could have serious consequences.
“If the police or licensing officers were made aware of this there could be a big risk of licences being lost.”
Ms Hood, who represent licence holders during disputes as well as offering consultancy, advised all bar and restaurant staff to check any funeral bookings while the restrictions are in place.
“A premises manager or personal licence holder should follow due diligence and ask any appropriate questions, as they have to do with track and trace,” she said.
“If it was me I would do basic checks, perhaps to see if a service is being held beforehand. If the licensed trade was to take everyone’s word for it and this happened to them with someone pulling the wool over their eyes it could cause them a lot of difficulties.”
But she pointed out it may be difficult to make checks without upsetting grieving families.
“It’s not an easy thing to check because you don’t want to be insensitive to people who are holding genuine funerals,” she said.
“I’d advise licence holders to do basic checks in the most sensitive way possible, to keep themselves right but without going to the level of asking to see death certificates.”
Licensing officers in Dundee are carrying out regular visits to pubs in the city, to make sure restrictions are being followed.
Ms Hood also hit out at the additional strain the trick is putting on hospitality staff, who lost profits during lockdown and are now wrangling with curfews, social distancing and track and trace.
“It is absolutely awful for the licensed trade at the moment,” she said.
“They already have so many rules and regulations to follow and make sure their customers are following them too, never mind having to check things like this now too.
“It won’t be the ones doing the drinking who are held responsible, it will be the people pouring the drinks and holding the licence.
“It’s just another stick to beat the licensed trade with and this is the last thing they need.
“It’s quite serious and I think anyone with a licensed premises needs to be warned about this.”
A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: “Our officers regularly visit establishments to help them fulfil their obligations under national coronavirus guidance by providing advice and support.”