At their monthly meeting next Wednesday members of the local licensing board are to look again at the criteria requires to allow pubs to stay open longer in Wigtownshire after some pub landlords simply ignored council policy regarding entertainment.
The board introduced later hours for pubs that provided ‘attraction facilities’ for customers in 2013 but reports from police Scotland and licensing standards officers have revealed that some licensees are either ignoring the requirements or interpreting them in a liberal fashion.
If a licensed premises put on any kind of live performance, had music operated by a DJ, dancing, live music including a compared karaoke or showed a film, they were allowed to stay open until 1am. But warning letters were issued to some premises who remained open without providing any ‘attraction’. One pub in Stranraer had a karaoke machine sitting on a chair in the corner purportedly with a compare (who appeared unable to operate the equipment) but with no-one participating while another had a film showing with unrelated music being provided by a juke box. It was also noted that the advances of technology now meant that a laptop or ipod or ipad could be used without loss of quality of sound, making monitoring this interpretation of the policy difficult to define for LSOs.
At a meeting in Glenluce last month, pub and hotel owners told licencing board members that their businesses were under pressure due to various factors, including the new drink driving limit. They all agreed that the attractions outlined in the policy were out of date due to new technology and were increasingly difficult to monitor. But as many in the 18 to 25-year old age group did not go out until 11.30pm at night the licensees needed the extra hour’s trading just to survive. They are in favour of the board withdrawing the ‘attraction facilities’ requirement but retain the same opening hours it facilitated - Sunday to Wednesday up to 12.30pm; Thursday to Saturday up to 1am.
In a letter to the licencing board in January last year regarding ‘attraction facilities’ opening hours, Police Inspector Stewart McColm said that trying to monitor compliance or noncompliance of the rules was difficult as there were many demand on the police service at that time of night. Therefore some premises were “not complying with the police, despite visits from LSO’s and letter sent to them on the subject reminding them of their responsibilities.”
The inspector added that the force would have concerns about the abolition of the attraction facilities requirements as it would send out a signal to licence holders that if they simply ignore a condition of their licence no action will be e taken by the Board.
The inspector concludes: “If this condition is done away with what follows next if licensees simply refuse to observe a condition that is not to their liking. It potentially brings the whole licensing system into disrepute and opens up avenues for the disreputable licence holder to simply do as they please.”