Picture this, it’s well into the festive period and you’re sipping away on a fruity mulled wine alfresco. But wait, you’re in Aberdeen.
Yes, you read right. Not Paris, Amsterdam or Norway. Aberdeen.
It has been done before. And successfully more to the point.
You just need to look at the likes of The Chester Hotel and its winter wonderland last year with weekend reservations booked out weeks in advance.
Its alfresco offering went down a storm and if anything, is proof that there is an appetite for alfresco dining during the colder months.
Yes there were heaters and yes everyone wrapped up warm, but did a winter chill stop us in our tracks from celebrating Scottish hospitality? It certainly didn’t.
If Europe can do it, so can we
So why do we Scots throw the towel in as soon as the temperatures begin to plummet? Especially now that the concept has been tried and tested to great success.
Locations across Europe do it, and so can we.
In terms of Aberdeen, I can say with absolute certainty that one phoenix that has arisen from the ashes during the pandemic is the introduction of more outdoor drinking and dining areas.
They have proved a lifeline for businesses that would have had next to no other ways of making income (excluding introducing delivery and takeaway services).
The options for anyone wanting to eat alfresco pre-pandemic in the city were near non-existent unless heading to the beach.
Restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars were unable to seat customers indoors when hospitality was given the green light to reopen in July 2020, and so diversified and invested in alfresco seating areas.
Aberdeen city centre
Businesses erected tents, got their hands on picnic benches and set up shop. And while some were and remain bigger than others, these spots have brought the city to life.
Independent hospitality group PB Devco, the owners of Soul, took over part of the site at the former Bruce Millers music store on Union Street last summer.
They turned it into a new outdoor venue known as The Draft Project and also erected a sheltered beer garden which remains open on Bon Accord Street while the street is temporarily closed.
The Draft Project was planned to be launched as a temporary pop-up – lasting around two months – from August 2020, however, given its popularity, it remains open, a year longer than originally anticipated.
While it has seen various challenges in its time including a TV ban following issues arising at the bar around the time of the Euros, it is promising to see the council and locals get behind the venue to keep it open.
The same success could be said for the venues in Aberdeen hospitality operator, The McGinty’s Group’s, portfolio which have been transformed to feature outdoor drinking and dining areas.
They include The Fourmile in Kingswells, No. 10 Bar & Restaurant on Queen’s Terrace, The Grill on Union Street, and Ferryhill House Hotel on Bon Accord Street.
All of these venues’ alfresco offering have remained, with no plans to remove them announced.
Heaters to hand
With Covid cases recently on the rise and more individuals picking up bugs and getting ill, is now really the time to close these areas which provide additional space for punters and a bit more fresh air?
I’d like to think many other diners would relish in the chance to eat outside – albeit with a heater or two to hand.
There’s also the Christmas market to consider now, with more alfresco dining options hopefully popping up when it takes shape.
With some still apprehensive about heading out, is it right to be restricted to solely indoor service?
We’re already seeing local pop-ups closing down ahead of the winter season, Backyard Beach Collective at Codona’s and The Bike Yard included, with little to no reasoning behind it – other than the weather.
Yes, it’s a tad colder, but that doesn’t deter us from eating outside. We live in Scotland after all.
Providing you are well equipped with a jacket, scarf and gloves, and there is some sort of heating available at the venue, then I don’t see why we should be turning away from the way of dining which helped venues get back up and running.
I really hope this doesn’t pave the way for the closure of more outdoor venues that I have come to love.
And for those that do end up closing their outdoor areas, that it is just for the season and not for good as it would be a tragedy to watch Aberdeen’s streets go back to their bleak selves.