Fears that booze laws may hit cafe culture

Kelso Square
Kelso Square

Efforts to give Kelso town centre more of a continental feel with people eating and drinking outdoors could be hit by proposed new by-laws.

That was the fear of several members of the local community council, which met last week and discussed the mooted new legislation, currently going out to public consultation.

Community council chairman John Bassett used the meeting to urge Kelso residents to attend any public meetings and consultation sessions.

“If the people of Kelso want to have a voice on this issue, then it’s important these meetings are well attended,” he said.

And he flagged up potential issues, such as townspeople who like to drink outside in certain public areas during Civic Week and how they could be affected, as an example.

Local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston (Con) told the meeting the police had said they would use common sense in applying any new by-laws governing the consumption of alcohol in certain public spaces.

“At the moment the law actually prohibits the drinking of alcohol outdoors in public spaces before 10am and after 10pm,” he said.

Council vice-chairman Dean Weatherston added: “I just wonder how this would all fit in with the idea of creating a more continental atmosphere in the square with plans to have people eating and drinking at tables outside the Cross Keys.

“How would people just having a glass of wine at a table outside the hotel be affected?”

Councillor Weatherston countered that Edinburgh and Glasgow already had such by-laws, yet the police applied common sense to their use, as evidenced by the fact such cities still had cafes and the like with outdoor areas.

“You still get people drinking outside at the various festivals and so on,” he said.

It was earlier this month Scottish Borders Council agreed to seek the views of the Borders public, including area committees and community councils.

Without the by-laws, the police are limited in relation to when they can confiscate alcohol. However, the issue has generated controversy and it culminated at the full June session of the local authority when Councillor Michael Cook (East Berwickshire, Ind) described the rambling debate on the pros and cons of possible new by-laws as a “bonkers discussion”.