North-east cafes and bars opened for the first time in months today after the Scottish Government relaxed rules on lockdown.
Following 15 weeks of being closed to the public, people in Scotland are now able to return to beer gardens and pavement cafes as the hospitality sector takes another step out of lockdown.
The establishments will initially have to abide by the two-metre rule, while indoor parts of pubs and restaurants could reopen on July 15 as the Covid-19 restrictions ease further.
With that said, owners of eating and drinking venues across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have had to adapt and develop outdoor seating areas to accommodate to the guidelines.
Dozens of punters stood in a queue outside Soul waiting to sanitise their hands and gain entry.
The venue was transformed in anticipation of the announcement that beer gardens could reopen, with a new undercover seating area being constructed on a closed-off section of Bon Accord Street.
Soul’s outdoors capacity is now somewhere between 112 and 132, and it was approaching that number on Monday lunchtime.
Paul Clarkson, operations director of Soul owners PB Devco, said: “We’re delighted to have everyone here, the response has been very good.
“Everyone seems to be listening to the rules and following them, and I’m just delighted to be back on the premises and trading again.”
Duncan and Marion Nicholson, 66 and 63, were enjoying a pint of Tennent’s and a Pinot Grigio in the sunshine.
Duncan said: “It’s wonderful, absolutely fantastic. It’s been a long time, so it’s good.
“We were out, we happened to be passing, and it wasn’t busy, so we just decided to have a pint.”
Student nurses Amy O’Donovan, Ciara Keown and Eilidh McDermott, all 21, came to the beer garden for their day off after working through lockdown.
Amy said: “We had the takeaway pints during the week, and decided we’d come back to try the beer garden – it is a very nice beer garden.
“They’re doing it all very well, everyone’s maintaining social distancing and with the hand sanitisers, they seem to know where they’re at.”
Cove Bay Hotel
Cove Bay Hotel owner Guy Craig said: “It’s been fairly steady for us since opening at noon, with around 30-40 people stopping by for lunch.
“I set up a Cove Bay Hotel pre-booking system once we were aware of the date we could reopen to serve outside. This has been used a lot by our customers and our weekend is shaping up to be a hectic one.
“We actually transformed the hotel’s car park into a beer garden area for customers, which can accommodate as much as 88 people.
“A lot of the furniture was taken from inside the restaurant as it cannot be opened for the time being and is sitting empty. And I also have a marquee that covers one third of the overall area, which will come in handy if the weather turns.
“I’ve been as canny as I can be with regards to spending because, ultimately, the beer garden will need to be turned back into a car park at some point. Developing the area certainly cost us a couple thousand.
“I’m feeling extremely glad to be back to work, however the team and I are praying for nice weather.”
Books and Beans
Belmont Street looked quite sparse, with just one of its cafes offering an outside terrace – popular coffee shop-cum-bookshop Books and Beans.
Owner John Wigglesworth said: “It’s been fantastic.
“People have been asking for seats at the tables for weeks, and wanting to sit somewhere, and every table’s been taken since about 11am.
“It’s great to get all this support, and it’s great to be able to serve people.
He added: “We’ve had the benefit of being open for a number of weeks, so we’ve been working through our processes and procedures and doing risk assessments.
“We’ve already had sanitisers, we’ve already had a one-way system, we’ve already had temperature checks for staff in the morning and the afternoon.
“In terms of today, it was a case of making sure the tables are spaced and cleaned after every customer.”
One of those customers was primary school head teacher Stuart Seivwright, who was returning for a sit-down coffee after grabbing a takeaway from the café last week.
He thought the post-lockdown atmosphere was a change for the better, saying: “Everything’s just a bit more relaxed.
“Apart from the queue for Primark, everything is calmer and quieter.”
Molly’s Cafe Bar
Molly’s Cafe Bar manager, Megan Langdon, said: “We opened at 9am today and our outdoor seating area, which has a capacity of 30, has been full from the get go.
“There’s been an amazing vibe down at the beach front today, and the team and I are really pleased to be open again. And everyone that’s stopped by, as well as people down by the beach, have been sticking to the social distancing rules.
“We’ve been working on a first come, first serve basis, so quite a lot of people have had to be put on today’s waiting list in order to be seated at some point throughout the day. This involves us taking their phone number and giving them a call once a table is made available.
“We’re open until 10pm, so are hoping to have a lot more customers stopping by for a drink in the evening, too.
“The weather today has definitely helped with how hectic things have been.”
She also said they didn’t spend a huge amount on new items/seating as they already had the outdoor area before the outbreak.
Luke Parsons, 32, Scott Stewart, 30, and Neil Anderson, 37, found a quiet spot for a pint outside the Kirkgate Bar on Upperkirkgate.
Luke said: “When you come in, you’ve got to write down your name, your address, your number and the time you came in, and get your hands sanitised.
“They’ll do the transaction at the door, then you’ve got to stand outside.”
The mild post-Covid palaver has not fazed the three, though.
“No, it’s a Monday afternoon – it’s not the weekend, when everybody’s off,” said Scott.
Billy, one of the regulars at the Kirkgate, said: “It’s nice to sit in the sunshine in Aberdeen.
“I can see some of my favourite people, nice staff.”