Restaurant and pub workers in Aberdeen tonight dumped buckets of ice on Union Street to protest the new curfew on the hospitality sector.
Businesses joined forces this evening for the protest, timed to coincide with the new 6pm restrictions coming into force.
Organisers said the action highlights the outrage the industry is feeling across the country towards the Scottish Government’s curfew rules, which have been imposed for the next 16 days.
Nick Gordon, general manager of Orchid and 99 Bar & Kitchen, and Adrian Gomes, owner of The Tippling House, rallied fellow businesses to join the protest, which took place on the closed area of Union Bridge.
Owners and staff from Dusk, Siberia Bar & Hotel, Orchid, 99 Bar & Kitchen, PB Devco, McGinty’s Group, Revolucion de Cuba and other bars in the city emptied buckets of ice onto the ground to symbolise what Nick says is “the slow deterioration of the industry”.
The ice dump idea was conjured up by whisky buyer Arthur Motley, of Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh, and was repeated in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Nick said: “The hospitality trade has taken blow after blow, week after week, and we have, by large, overcome and adapted to our new environments. These latest restrictions will be the final nail in the coffin for many venues across the city, and the country.
“The ice represents every cocktail not shaken, every vodka coke not poured. You could say the melting of the ice represents the slow deterioration of our industry at the hands of the government. We’ve seen thousands of job losses, and will see thousands more by the end of these ’16 days’.
“As an industry, we have been scapegoated from minute one. We were the first industry to be shut down, and we’re the only industry to continually have restrictions put upon us.
“And yet, evidence shows less than 5% of Covid-19 cases are linked directly to hospitality venues.
“Hospitality venues are the safest places to be. We’re the only ones implementing track and trace with every single person walking through our doors. We have staff almost dedicated to cleaning touch points throughout the venue.
“A person can travel by public transport, visit five shops, meet their friend in a park and yet it’s only when they come to a bar that they are met with such excessive procedures as ours, such as track and trace, restricted opening times, and even the ability to sell the product that accounts for 90% of our sales – alcohol.
“There are similar ice dumps happening in Glasgow and Edinburgh outside Parliament and government buildings. We don’t have that luxury of such high profile buildings here, so decided on the closed off section of Union Street on the bridge.
“This limits disruption to walkways, and we’ve done it at a place where there are no shops. We want to show how responsible our industry is, and how we have managed to adapt to our new restrictions in a safe and responsible manner.
“However, the latest steps are a death sentence to many. We’ve been through a local lockdown already, and although there is the guise that we can still operate with outside areas, or by selling soft drinks indoors, it’s simply not enough to keep us going.”
The new restrictions, which the First Minister announced on Wednesday, will see no alcohol served indoors in hospitality settings for 16 days up to and including Sunday, October 25, with indoor venues told to close at 6pm. Those operating outdoors must be closed by 10pm.
The move was made in an attempt to control the rising cases of coronavirus.
The socially distanced protest saw staff from across the city wear face coverings while participating and organisers also encouraged their peers to move along and not hang around.
Adrian added: “It is amazing to see the support from not just the Aberdeen bartenders’ scene but in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is really just an industry now which is getting victimised. Living in the middle of a pandemic, social situations are everything. We’re probably one of the most regulated industries in the country in terms of how we look after our guests. We get tonnes of feedback on how safe people feel.
“I think where we were with the local lockdown in Aberdeen and where we are now is miles apart. Everyone’s doing what they need to do and the public were responding to that positively. The 10pm was a massive hit, but the 6pm with no alcohol sales inside doesn’t make sense.
“There’s no real scientific evidence to suggest why we are getting picked on more than any other industry.
“We’re coming up to Christmas time which is traditionally a good time of year, but instead, we’re pushing customers outside to drink outside as the weather has turned. Why is it OK to drink a beer outside in the cold with no CCTV cameras picking up what is going on but you can’t go inside where it is much safer where they will also have to use the toilets?
“Hopefully standing together responsibly will show our solidarity and that this industry is just as important as any other.”