The application for an occasional licence for the Auld Baths in Bath St, Hawick to operate a bar for 500 people on a planned Orange march through the town has been withdrawn by the applicant, one day before it was due to be considered by the licensing board at Scottish Borders Council.
The planned march has raised concerns over the potential for public disorder and the application had received two objections.
Orangemen, accompanied by a 50-strong flute band, is expected to take part in the event on Saturday, April 14.
Mystery surrounds the withdrawal of the licence application by Malcolm Cooper, of Coopers Bar in the town’s High Street, for permission to operate a licensed bar at the Auld Baths to provide refreshments for marchers between 11am and 9pm on the day.
We spoke to Mr Cooper’s father, also named Malcolm, who said the application had been refused and his son withdrew it. Mr Cooper Jnr was unavailable for comment.
If the application was heard by the board, the councillors would have heard objections from the council’s licensing standards officer Ian Tunnah and Iain Livingstone, Police Scotland’s deputy chief constable designate.
Among their concerns was that the venue’s capacity is just 220 and that the date clashes with the Melrose Sevens rugby tournament.
A spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, the oldest and biggest Protestant Christian fraternity in the country, said the march is being staged to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the formation of its Hawick lodge.
He said earlier this week: “This will be only the third such march to be held in Hawick over those 40 years, and we do not anticipate any problems. There will be nowhere near 500 people attending. It will be 200. We have marches here in Glasgow almost every week, and there is never any problem.
“We are currently in talks with Scottish Borders Council over the staging of this event.”
In a report to the committee, Mr Tunnah says: “It is thought that the proposed Orange march is to take place around the streets of Hawick, and the application therefore relates to post and pre-march refreshments.
“It is my opinion that if this is the case then the hours applied for are in effect excessive and could lead to noise, nuisance and disturbance.
“The Orange march coupled with the excessive consumption of alcohol are, in my opinion, likely to cause nuisance and disturbance within and around the venue.”
He also said that the premises previously held a public entertainment licence which had a maximum capacity of 220 people.
Mr Livingstone added: “The organisation has not applied for or been granted any of the relevant permission to hold a march from either the council or Police Scotland.
The planned march has split opinion among Hawick councillors.
Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall was less worried about the likelihood of trouble, saying: “Our town has hosted these events before and I don’t ever recall any disruption.”
Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull is warier, though, saying: “This application is totally out of keeping with the Borders and, in particular, Hawick. I remember the last march and I still remember the expressions of shock and dismay on the faces of those who were on the street to witness the event.”
Despite most Orange marches going off without major problems, there have been recent controversies. Last summer, Glasgow City Council ruled it would consider banning future marches after seeing footage of members of the public chanting a sectarian song.
Footage emerged online of people appearing to sing the anti-Irish “Famine Song”, while a band played along.