Tale of two towns as licensing law erupts

THE president of Newton Stewart Business Association has spoken of his surprise that licensing laws forcing pubs to close at 1am instead of 2am weren’t enforced earlier.

Supporting the move by Wigtown Licensing Board to keep Newton Stewart’s hours restricted by an hour compared to those of Stranraer, Gordon Andrews, who also owns The Galloway Arms and The Belted Galloway, told The Gazette that local residents had been surprisingly quiet in their complaints.

He said: “Under the 2005 Act all it needs to stop all late licenses is the residents of Queen Street or Victoria Street to start complaining directly to the board and I have been surprised this has not happened.”

Wigtown Chamber of Commerce president Peter Jeal this week demanded a meeting with the Licensing Board to discuss the time difference between the two Wigtownshire towns, claiming that Newton Stewart’s premises would lose employment and cash by closing their doors at 1am.

But Mr Andrews rebuffed these suggestions and said that Newton Stewart has been out of line with other towns for too long.

He added: “I find Mr Jeal’s argument flawed and in my opinion inaccurate. How many jobs rely upon the difference between 1am and 2am? Does this mean bars will be unable to open on Tuesday lunchtimes? I do not believe so. The Licence hours for this town at the weekend have been out of step with other towns of a similar size for years, such Castle Douglas and Kirkcubright.”

A meeting has since been set up for Wednesday 5 October at The Crown Hotel in Newton Stewart for all licensees with the Licensing Board, beginning at 3pm.

Also, from tomorrow (Saturday), premises across Galloway selling alcohol must ask anyone who appears to be under 25 to prove their age as part of new licensing laws.

The ‘Challenge 25 laws’ will mean any shop assistant or bar staff who feel the customer may not be over 25 can ask to be shown ID in a bid to prevent under-18s being able to masquerade as legal-age.

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, commented: ““Determining the age of young people is difficult and is unlikely to get any easier. The pressure on licence holders and their staff will continue to increase as technology enables fraudsters to produce more sophisticated and authentic looking proof-of-age cards.”

A recent government study showed that 84 percent of 15 year olds regularly drink alochol as a pass-time and a worrying 51 percent admitted to it at the age of just 13, and most claimed they purchased drink at small convenience stores.

The Challenge 25 scheme follows on from Challenge 21, which was previously in place. Retailers have until tomorrow to change their in-store advertising and notices.