As socially-distanced beer gardens and outdoor restaurants were re-opened in Scotland from 6 July 2020, here’s an urban photo series about takeaway pints that flourished briefly under lockdown and were banned by Glasgow City Council.
The phenomenon of takeaway pints rose after a pragmatic easing of planning permission laws to help struggling publican and hospitality industries. Thus, some pubs and bars were allowed to operate as takeaways and serve beer-on-the-go.
We passed the BrewDog bar, known for their great selection of craft beers and ales, several times on our evening walks in Merchant City and noticed people getting beer in sealed containers through a window in the wall and walking away. There were also small groups of punters who seemed to enjoy their drinks on the squiggly granite benches on both sides of Hutchesons Street.
As drinking on the streets was normally forbidden, I thought it was urgent to create a humanist document of this lockdown-only urban situation. These photos were only made possible to capture under a fleeting and time-specific set of circumstances.
Frustratingly, although I realised that the photo opp was not to be wasted, every time we strolled through Merchant City I had only a lightweight wide lens on my camera. Not very conducive to a safely distanced serendipitous photojournalism! So one evening I came out with a telephoto zoom (and dragged John out with me). A photographer on a mission, ha-ha…
Hutchesons Street provided such a quiet, peaceful and gentrified setting for takeaway pint drinking, with plenty of distancing space. The customers seemed to be good-natured. I explained that I took these photos for my personal photo story project about the lockdown experiences and not for any newspaper.
While I was snapping away, John stroke a conversation with an Indian analyst who lived locally and came out for a beer after a long day of data crunching. The guy confessed that he also loved street photography and, although his country suffered under the Raj, he appreciated Merchant City for its grand Victorian architecture, despite its imperial origin.
I was shocked to find out a week later about the restriction on the sale of takeaway pints by Glasgow City Council in response to multiple complaints and “antisocial behaviour” of the street drinkers, noise and rubbish left behind. Perhaps, it did happen elsewhere, but not on any occasion I was out in this particular location.