Aberdeen lockdown 'gutting' for city pubs and bars

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Disheartening: a bar operator has described his worry as Aberdeen bars closed for at least a week last night (Wednesday 5 August)
Disheartening: a bar operator has described his worry as Aberdeen bars closed for at least a week last night (Wednesday 5 August)

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The operator of two bars in Aberdeen, one of which is on the Top 50 Cocktails Bar list, has described a city-wide shutdown of hospitality venues as “gutting”.

Pubs and restaurants were told they must close 5pm on Wednesday 5 August after a cluster of 54 cases were reported in the city.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the outbreak should be “the biggest wake-up call” to the public since the outbreak of the pandemic earlier this year.

She had previously said she was willing to reimpose restrictions on pubs and bars and that images of young people not social distancing when visiting venues had “made me want to cry”.

Martin Farmer oversees the Orchid cocktail bar and daytime drinking destination 99 Bar & Kitchen as well as gin distillery Porter’s Gin.

He had decided to keep Orchid – which was listed at number 22 on last year’s Top 50 Cocktail Bars list – closed and focused on a delivery and postal ready-to-make cocktail offer. 


However, Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen was set to open this Friday with new measures in place such as more outside seating.

Farmer said: “It’s disheartening and gutting, I think the negligence of venues and people have come into play and ruined it for everyone.”

He said: “Although you are not in charge of the queues, you know how long it will be for someone to get a table. They could be telling people to go away and come back in three-four hours or take people's details and text them. People maybe taking liberties and reaping all the benefits of the money right now, is making the city suffer.”

While he could understand the sense of achievement from queues outside a venue, Farmer said pubs and bars must "be vigilant."

He added: "Be careful and look after your communities because people haven't done that in Aberdeen and now look at us. The hospitality sector in the city is going to suffer."

The restrictions will be reviewed next Wednesday however Farmer expects the closure will last a couple of weeks at least.

The operator said: “There’s a lot of independent small venues looking to open up, all now at risk again. Two or three weeks is a long time for venues to be paying staff, or people have bought stock and have bills to pay. It's worrying times.”

“The fear has now leveled up on how quickly it can come back. It was less than a week ago this person went out in Aberdeen and obviously went to a lot of bars

“It's quite wild to think how quickly this can spread, especially as there was a small light at the end of the tunnel.” 

NHS Grampian published a list of venues which have been visited by people linked to the cluster, after 191 contacts were traced through the Test and Protect system.


However, Stonegate Pub Company criticised the service for not contacting one of their venues to inform them someone who had tested positive for coronavirus had visited.

No contact

A spokesperson for Stonegate said: “Within our businesses we have implemented extensive procedures to keep our staff and customers safe, including track and trace. We are surprised to have one of our pubs publicly named in this situation as at no point have the NHS Test and Trace team contacted the pub to advise us that a member of the public with Covid-19 has been in our venue.

"We are disappointed that we have had to close, yet again impacting on our businesses and the livelihood of our employees, some of which are new and therefore do not qualify to be re-furloughed. 

“We aim to work with Government in helping to trace those that may infect others.  With hospitality the only sector operating track and trace every reported case will impact on hospitality albeit not always the originating source."

The pub company said the Government should provide support for people who started pub jobs after the July cut-off date for furlough.

Other restrictions in the city include a ban on non-essential travel more than five miles from home apart for education or work purposes and a ban on different households meeting up indoors.

There have been reports that the First Minister could move to ban pub crawls in the aftermath of the outbreak in Aberdeen.

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