Landlady raises glass to ‘family-friendly’ board

Cath and Hector Brown of St. Ronans Innerleithen toast a glass at being able to let sixteen and seventeen year olds stay in the bar until 11pm.
Cath and Hector Brown of St. Ronans Innerleithen toast a glass at being able to let sixteen and seventeen year olds stay in the bar until 11pm.

INNERLEITHEN publican Cath Brown has praised Scottish Borders Licensing Board for taking “a realistic approach” to her attempt to keep young people on her premises for longer, writes Andrew Keddie.

Mrs Brown was commenting after the board decided, following a 3-2 vote in Galashiels on Friday, to allow her to vary her operating plan to make the High Street hostelry – known locally as the “top pub” – more family friendly.

Last week, we reported how the police had cautioned against the concession.

Mrs Brown sought to allow children, designated under the Licensing (Scotland) Act as those aged under 16, on her premises until 9pm, rather than the curfew of 7pm explicit in the licence she was granted in 2009.

She also wanted young people, defined under the legislation as aged 16 and 17, to be allowed in the pub until 11pm: a two-hour extension on the status quo.

The police felt that, as no specific reason had been given for the presence of children and young people beyond current hours, the board would need to consider if the request was appropriate, given the key “protecting children from harm” objective, explicit in the legislation.

At the hearing Mrs Brown explained she had been forced to turn families away from her pub because of the restrictions.

She related the incident reported in these columns last week of the three mountain bikers – a 17-year-old, his older brother and his dad – who came in for a meal earlier this month.

When Mrs Brown told them the younger boy would be asked to go at 9pm, the party left her premises.

With summer on its way and a burgeoning visitor interest in mountain biking in and around Innerleithen, she asked for the variation to cater for families. She was supported in her submission by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association which is increasingly concerned at the continued closure of licensed premises in Scotland.

The board, on the motion of chairman Councillor Gavin Logan, agreed after its narrow vote that young people aged 16 and 17 should be allowed in any part of the hotel – including the bar, pool room, beer garden and restaurant – until 11pm provided, of course, that they do not consume alcohol.

However, members, while accepting that children should be allowed in the beer garden and in the hotel for the purposes of dining until 9pm, believed the 7pm restriction in the bar and pool room should be continued.

The board also agreed to Mrs Brown’s request to sell alcohol, both for on and off-sales, an hour earlier at 11am on Sundays.

“I am glad the majority of the board backed our application which was largely successful,” she told us after the meeting.

“If Innerleithen has a future then it lies in having businesses which are attractive to visitors and that means being able to cater for families, especially on the long summer nights which we are so looking forward to.”

Mr Logan told us: “Every application from licensed premises is treated on its merits and I do not believe that our overarching duty to protect children from harm has been compromised in this particular case.”

Other applications granted by the board on Friday included new premises licences for Glenross Whiskies Ltd of 9 High Street, Peebles, and the Tweedside Caravan Park in Montgomery Street, Innerleithen.

Meanwhile, Lidl was successful in its bid to sell alcohol until 10pm seven days a week at its Kelso store. Under its existing licence, the discount retailer has been restricted to 8pm on weekdays and 6pm on Sunday.