A HAWICK nightclub owner has denied responsibility for incidents of public disorder, noise and littering which, his neighbours claim, are making their lives a misery.
But despite the protestations of Neil Gillies, who runs the Base nightspot in Baker Street, Scottish Borders Licensing Board voted 7-3 to reject an application to extend his opening hours beyond the current 2am on Friday and Saturday nights.
Mr Gillies had originally sought to sell drink until 2.30am on these evenings, but revised his bid to allow his customers to remain on the premises until that time, with the bar continuing to close for the sale of alcohol at 2am. That, he claimed, would put him on a level footing with the town’s other nightclub – Diesels in nearby Teviot Crescent – which was granted the same concession by the board a year ago.
Such a variation to Mr Gillies’ entertainments licence was supported by the police who reported that only four incidents directly relating to Base had been reported in the previous 12 months.
But the bid was opposed by neighbours Catherine and Trevor Ballantyne who bought their property in the narrow one-way street next to the club in 2005. The couple had submitted a formal objection ahead of Friday’s board meeting at Newtown, presenting councillors with a graphic account of their experiences.
Mr Ballantyne wrote: “The current operating hours [at Base] cause us endless disturbance, and to extend these would only serve to add to the stress and misery we feel.
“At present we are unable to have a life at the weekend with Saturday and Sunday effectively written off. We live in a street that is ‘terrorised’ every weekend by loud music and drunken individuals, sometimes causing criminal damage, littering and, worst of all, urinating and vomiting on and around our property.
“The situation has deteriorated steadily since the smoking ban in 2006, resulting in customers congregating outside our property.
“Here, they socialise, sing, chant and argue along with other individuals making their way down Baker Street to Diesels in Teviot Crescent.”
Mr Ballantyne said the family dog was also affected by the disorder.
He claimed: “He is frightened every weekend because of the music and crowd noise ... he also has to be carried clear from our property to Teviot Crescent over the weekend because of the amount of broken glass from empty alcohol containers in the street.”
Addressing the board, Mr Gillies said his customers were required to be off his premises at 2.15am and asserted that his application was commercially driven, reflecting a change in the drinking patterns of customers.
He said: “Base is only open on Friday and Saturday nights from 10am till 2am, but the reality is we have few paying customers until midnight, with more and more people drinking cheap supermarket alcohol at home before coming out.”
Mr Gillies, who employs 20 part-time workers, including six door staff, all qualified to Security Industry Authority (SIA) standards, said he had worked tirelessly with Scottish Borders Council environmental health officers to mitigate the sound of live and amplified music coming from within the club, spending around £5,000 on structural improvements.
He stated: “We run an extremely professional business with CCTV cameras, a strict Challenge 25 proof-of-age policy and door staff who assist with the safe dispersal of customers at the end of the night.
“We are no different from many businesses in the current economic climate who are under commercial pressure with overheads rocketing. We do not believe this small concession to help our business will, in any way, adversely affect things beyond our control.”
He explained there were three other licensed premises in Baker Street: The Gretel, the Ex-Service Club, Hawick Harlequins Club – and two others (The Waverley Bar in High Street and Diesels) within 100 yards.
After the meeting, Mr Gillies said he was disappointed at the outcome, given that none of the incidents reported to the police had occurred inside his premises and that it was impossible to attribute them to his club.
“While I respect the licensing board, I believe it was wrong to deny a concession to a business which is professionally run. Members, I feel, should take account of the change in drinking culture and the fact that the two nightclubs in Hawick are suffering because the board allows 3am licences to similar operations in Galashiels,” he commented.
Board chairman Councillor Gavin Logan said: “Every application must be decided on its merit and, on this occasion, the board felt it was not appropriate to vary the licence.”