Councillors have overruled opposition by police and health chiefs to approve a bid by a Peebles pub to allow children to accompany adults drinking there.
The County Inn applied to Scottish Borders Council’s licensing department for permission to allow children in until 10pm if they are having dinner or until 8pm if they are not.
Under the terms of the High Street pub’s previous licence, children had to be out by 8pm and were only permitted in that if they were dining.
The County’s owner, Suffolk brewery Greene King, was unhappy about that restriction, though, complaining that it was hitting its takings.
The police, NHS Borders and council licensing all objected to the plans.
Tim Patterson, interim joint director of public health for the health board and council, said: “Exposure to alcohol and witnessing adult drinking can influence our children’s future drinking habits.
“Our children and young people have the right to grow up safe from alcohol-related harm.”
Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone, also area commander for the Lothians and Borders division, added: “The provision to allow children and young persons access to the premises for no other reason than to accompany adults drinking is wholly and completely against policy.”
The council’s licensing standards officer, Ian Tunnah, agreed, saying: “This would allow children and young persons access for no other reason than to accompany an adult consuming alcohol.
“This would be entirely contrary to the licensing board’s policy, which clearly indicates there should be reasons for children and young persons being on licensed premises, and there would be particular concerns where alcohol consumption is the primary purpose.”
However, at a meeting of the council’s licensing board yesterday, November 16, a compromise was agreed with Greene King representative Adrian Howlett.
He told councillors: “Apologies for causing so much furore. It wasn’t our intention to drive a coach and horses through your policy.
“Actually, this has come about purely because we’ve spent a lot of money on our premises and refurbishment.
“The intention here was that the general manager has to turn away a lot of people that currently want to come in and have a drink or a snack because currently our operating plan says that children have to be eating a meal to be on the premises.
“I don’t think it was ever the intention of your policy that people couldn’t come in and have a coffee or a juice, but actually that is what our operating plan currently says.
“In discussion with council officers, what we hope to come up with is a compromise – that if children come in with their parents then they have to be having a snack or a full meal.
“We’re more than happy for the snack part of the agreement to be time-limited, to not go beyond 6pm, so before 6pm children can accompany adults if they’re just having a snack, whereas after 6pm they’ll need to have a full meal.”
The County was also granted consent to sell alcohol from 11am on Sundays, an hour earlier than previously, and, subject to further approval, to allow outdoor drinking in designated areas.
Councillors agreed the compromise on allowing children on to the premises and voted unanimously to alter the pub’s licence subject to the proposed outside seating area being approved by the council’s roads department.