Staff in pubs, bars and restaurants across Aberdeen are facing abuse from customers flouting Covid-19 regulations.
Workers in the city’s hospitality sector have faced verbal attacks and have even been coughed at when they have reminded punters of rules put in place to tackle the pandemic.
Current restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus mean drinkers should wear masks when not at their tables and give their details to enable contact tracing.
But that has not stopped some from abusing staff trying to enforce the rules.
Stuart McPhee, spokesman for industry body Aberdeen Hospitality Together (AHT), said some customers had behaved in an unacceptable manner.
Stuart, who also owns city centre bar and hotel Siberia, said: “We have seen a bit of a rise in abusive events. There have been at least two occasions where people have become abusive when they have been challenged for things like not wearing masks and not sitting at one table.
“Our staff are trying to enforce the rules but they have been abused for it. One staff member was coughed at when they challenged a customer.
“Technically it is classed as an assault and we were looking at what options we had but unfortunately it would have been our colleague’s word against theirs.
“It’s really not on. The staff are doing all they can to keep people safe.”
Mr McPhee’s revelation came following the first weekend of a nationwide curfew which requires all hospitality businesses to be closed by 10pm.
But fears have been raised among the city’s business community that drinkers are simply moving from bars and pubs to people’s homes.
The manager of another Aberdeen pub said staff had also received “terrible abuse” – and mainly from older customers.
He said: “It’s been an absolute nightmare trying to get people to adhere to the rules and I’m sure it’s been the same in most bars across Scotland.
“We had staff working on Sunday night and they received terrible abuse from customers.
“It’s mostly older people, who should know better, who are causing the trouble. The youngsters are actually well behaved.
“We’re under enough pressure as it is with shorter hours, the threat of redundancies and trying to keep ourselves and our families safe.
“I think it’s something that needs to be highlighted. A lot of people are still under the impression that they can just come in and please themselves.
“We’re trying our best to adhere to the rules but there are some customers making life really difficult for us.”
Adrian Watson, the chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said this would mean them being in a less controlled environment than if they were to drink at licensed premises.
He said: “Several of our businesses have reported back on the 10pm ‘curfew’ over the weekend, with restaurants clearly unable to take much in the way of bookings post 8pm, which inevitably is a further hit to revenue and all the consequences that brings.
“With venues closing at 10pm there was a tendency for congregations to then form outside and with that some evidence of an increased uptake in off-sales carry-outs. The obvious concern there is the move from a regulated environment to one that is not.
“Of course, this is not an easy situation but we need to closely monitor the effects of such change and be evidence-based in our decision making.”
Mr McPhee fears people are gathering in each other’s homes after closing time.
He said: “People are going somewhere after the bars close. There are enough people out and about that they are not just going back home.
“Off-licences have been busy in the last hour of trading.
“My concern is you can sit in a bar and not mix because the environment is controlled – but when you go back to a house, there is no contact tracing or anything like that.
“We are very tightly-regulated but when people are removed from that environment they’re left to their own devices.”