Car parks could be turned into outdoor seating areas for pubs and restaurants as businesses takes their first steps out of lockdown.
Aberdeen City Council today urged licence holders to get in touch “as soon as possible” so that arrangements can be put in place in time for Scottish Government lockdown rules being relaxed.
It comes as the city council unveiled its phase one plans for easing restrictions, including the reopening of recycling centres, parks, leisure activities and contact between households.
Some pubs in the north-east are aleady making preparations to expand seating areas into their car parks and more are expected to following in the coming weeks.
Stephen Cruickshank, owner of The New Greentrees in Dyce, said he was in a fortunate position because the pub already has decking area outside, but he’d been keen to expand into the car park and use marquee.
He added: “We’re going to be using our outdoor area and put a marquee up in the car park and put some tables and chairs under it. We’re just waiting for it to arrive.
“I’m going to take away three tables from the decking and put them at the marquee, we should have about 60/70 covers. We just need to make sure we do it properly and safely so people feel comfortable coming.
“We’re excited to get going again.”
Simon Cruickshank, co-owner of The Ploughman and The Richmond Arms in Peterculter, said he would be happy to see more outdoor seating at The Richmond Arms, and would also consider the possibility of extending outdoor areas into the car park at The Ploughman, if allowed.
He said: “We took over The Ploughman last year and we spent a lot of money on it. We have a seating area for 60 people that will 100% be opening, but it would benefit the Richmond Arms if we were allowed to extend onto the pavement and could put tables and chairs out.
“It would be a great thing for businesses if we were all allowed to do this. We’re just so fortunate at the Ploughman. We’ve got tape ready to go for when we know the distance to mark it out. We’re all geared up to go.”
Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s licensing board convener, said teams were standing by to process and evaluate applications for outdoor seating.
She said: “Some businesses have outdoor areas, there will be those trying to open some that will require people to put in occasional licenses.
“Certainly we recognise businesses needs at the moment, and we’ll be working very closely to facilitate what we can, but we need to be mindful there are people on the streets, and there are those businesses that are in a heavily residential areas.
“I have been on calls with the licensing team to make sure we are in a good position in terms of processing them.
“Normally for an occasional license, which is what they would be applying for, you put the dates for when it starts and finishes, that’s a bit difficult at the moment but we’re going to ask businesses to guess dates.
“Our roads teams, our planning teams, licensing teams are all ready to go with applications.
“We’d encourage people if they would be interested in going down that avenue to put an application in as soon as possible, if they want outdoor seating or to use their car parks. We’re ready to action any requests we get.”
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: “We are looking forward to the next stage, which is hopefully going to see restaurants and pubs opening again in some capacity.
“Work has already started on making sure that can happen and we would urge businesses to get in touch with us as soon as possible to make sure we can get the appropriate licences or changes to planning permission in place.
“We want to make sure, when the time comes to move to phase two and they can open again, that they are ready. There is a lot of work ahead of us to make sure businesses are prepared.”
Paul Clarkson, operations director at PB Devco, which owns bars such as Soul, The College and The Howff, as well as many others in the city, said: “It’s definitely worthwhile and can benefit us getting back to business.
“We’re lucky as we have outdoor seating at Soul when they are allowed to sit there, but we’ve got the Howff where there isn’t really that option. We’re kind of joint tenants with the old Bruce Millers, maybe potentially we could use that space. It would be great if it would be allowed at College Bar as well, being so close to Union Street.”
Meanwhile Peter Argyle, deputy leader of Aberdeenshire Council and a member of the licensing board, said: “We probably will receive more applications, I know particularly coffee shops will be wanting to do stuff like that.
“It will be tough as there’s a lot of narrow streets and narrow pavements, but it is something that will be looked at as part of our engagement with town centres. I think it’s something we would look at on a case by case basis, what things can be done, but as far as I know, we have no plans to do this yet.”