The weather put a damper on some of the north-east’s plans as the hospitality industry opened up its doors for the first time in 2021.
Although Aberdeen was grey and wet, many persevered in getting an afternoon pint and a long-overdue catch up over coffee.
Of those reuniting and making the most of restrictions easing were sisters Jade McDonald, 21, and her sister Mya Grunwell, 16.
The pair got together at Mackie’s 19.2 and enjoyed a cookies and cream speciality waffle.
Mrs McDonald said when she heard cafes, bars, and restaurants would be reopening she told her younger sibling: “we’re going straight away”.
Yvette Harrison, manager of Mackie’s 19.2, said it was nice to see the staff again after four months and to welcome back all its regular customers.
She added: “It’s nice to see more busyness about the city too and more people.
“We’ve seen probably about 40 people come through the door today, but Monday are quiet anyway.
“We’re looking forward to the weekend with the kids off school and the summer holidays.
“And I’m hoping the businesses around here get busier.”
As part of the new guidelines for hospitality, QR codes have been stuck onto every table of the cafe.
Catching up outdoors
Louise Smith who runs the Banks of Ury pub in Inverurie said: “We’re really happy to be open to be honest, we’re buzzing about it.
“It’s a bit annoying with the weather being the way it has but we’ve had to turn folk away and we’re not taking any more bookings, so it’s obviously not stopped people coming out. So, it’s been really good.
“We had to get a new marquee, so we’ve ordered it and have to get it set up. We actually decorated the inside of the bar with the time off.”
In the city centre, some of the most popular haunts were buzzing with activity.
Drinks and food were being shared in Marischal Square’s All Bar One’s outdoor dining area.
Christie Donaghy, 25, and Emily Wilson, 25, caught up over a bottle of prosecco.
The two nurses moved from Australia a year ago and said they feel they can finally take the time to explore the city with restrictions easing.
Ms Donaghy said: “It was just excitement being able to get out into the city and explore places we hadn’t been before, but we always get recommended to go to.
“It’s really nice just to see other people interacting with each other.”
Ms Wilson added that, besides their colleagues at work, they hadn’t seen much interaction in the last four months.
Meanwhile, at Revolution de Cuba just off Belmont Street, people conversed despite the rain that continued to fall through the afternoon.
Rowan Greig, 22, and Molly McAra, 21, sat down to have a pint after a day scoping out the local charity shops.
Mr Greig, a fashion and textiles design student, said it was a “spontaneous day” that started out with hitting the gym after being eager to get back into a fitness routine.
He added: “I said let’s go for a pint. It was really nice to see people going out and about, getting that sense of normality again.
“I was kind of worried about like what if it happens again, what if we get put into lockdown again.
“I just don’t want to be going back and forth, back and forth.”
Stuart McPhee, manager of Siberia Bar on Aberdeen’s Belmont Street and a committee member of Aberdeen Hospitality Together, welcomed the return of customers.
He said: “It was great to see some life back in the city centre.
“People keeping their distance, wearing masks where appropriate and making the most of the new things they can now do.
“Despite the weather’s best efforts the public are out supporting local and sticking to the rules.”
Fiona MacDonald, café manager at the Corner Tree Café in Rosemount, said it is “exciting” for them to welcome customers inside after running a takeaway service in recent months.
She said: “It has been so exciting to reopen. We’ve had a lot of people in and had a busy wee lunch spell but it is good to have people back.
“It did feel a bit different reopening after such a long time.
“There were a few people who were a bit apprehensive but I invited them to show them round and let them see our safety measures.
“We’ve managed to create quite a safe environment and everyone knows the procedures.”
Safe and comfortable environment
Juliette Ruck, 22, a midwifery student said not even the weather could deter her from having the brownie from Books and Beans she had been craving for the last four months.
She said the first thing she wanted to do when she heard lockdown restrictions were lifting was to “go to a cafe and have a brownie”.
The Rosemount resident added: “It’s weird. It’s surreal. My brain still can’t process it, but it feels really good.
“Having the opportunity to do something else than sitting at my desk.
“I don’t care if it’s raining, it just feels good to be out.
“I had a lecture this morning and I was just buzzing to go out.
“I’m probably just going to bring my laptop and study a bit in cafes. Instead of sitting at my desk.”
She also encouraged people to support local businesses where they can.
John Wigglesworth, owner of Books and Beans cafe on Belmont Street, said preparation went into making sure customers have a “safe, comfortable, and enjoyable environment”.
He added: “From the moment we knew the dates of the 26th of April, we really have been working during the takeaway period just to get everything ready.
“Today was a very special day.”
Mr Wigglesworth said preparation to reopening went into emphasising this wasn’t “opening the door to a party” but “opening a door to making people feel welcome, comfortable and safe when they come back.
He added: “Last night I looked at the space and it felt very rewarding for the effort the whole team has out in over last two or three months.
“To see the delight and the enjoyment that everyone had is why we have hospitality businesses.
“Book and Beans exists to have people in the space. That’s where its magic works best.”
Susan Knowles of Stonehaven’s Waterfront Café said: “We feel really pleased to be open.
“I was a bit anxious this morning, but once our customers came back in it was fine. We’ve had a steady flowing day all in all.
“We have had a bit of redecorating done during lockdown this time, so we got that done and the girls have been in last week doing a deep-clean and power-washing the patio to make everything nice for reopening.
“We’ve got a lot bookings in the diary this week as well, so it’s obvious people are looking forward to coming back, it’s just a shame this afternoon the rain came on, there’s not so much people out and about.
“It’s been a good first day, we’ve been really pleased with it.”