A new breed of entrepreneurs in the Borders is exploiting changing public attitudes to the consumption of alcohol.
“These are exciting and dynamic times for the licensed trade,” observed Councillor Willie Archibald, chairman of the Scottish Borders Licensing Board.
“It is very encouraging to see such a range and diversity of new initiatives which all represent a boost to tourism and our local economy.”
He was commenting after his board granted provisional licences to three innovative ventures – a micropub (Scotland’s first), a specialist retail outlet for craft beers and an art gallery/exhibition centre in a converted granary.
The trend towards responsible drinking in safe well-run establishments and away from the excesses of over-indulgence is enshrined in the board’s statutory licensing objectives of preventing crime, disorder and public nuisance, improving public health and protecting young people from harm.
That cultural shift was exemplified in the submission of Simon Rutherford who has transformed the former knitwear shop of John Moody at 38 The Square in Kelso into Scotland’s first micropub.
“We won’t sell alcopops, we won’t sell lager ... there will be no television and no music,” said Mr Rutherford, who, as reported in these columns earlier this month, has already received planning consent for the change of use.
“It will be a small pub with a capacity of 30, serving good cold bar snacks from local suppliers and beers from local microbreweries. We will promote the lost art of conversation in a friendly atmosphere.”
Mr Rutherford said the restricted opening hours he was seeking – 11am till 10pm daily – were “designed to filter out binge drinkers and people chasing cheap, high-alcohol shots”.
The board unanimously approved Mr Rutherford’s licence application, before endorsing a bid from Paul Grant, who is leasing a terraced property in Kelso’s Horsemarket, for an off-sales outlet called Beer Craft.
“There is nothing like this in the Borders at the moment, although there are four or five similar outlets in Edinburgh,” said Mr Grant, who will specialise in bottled ales from small independent microbreweries on both sides of the Border.
Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston commented: “This is a great idea, especially as a large wine shop closed in Kelso a few years back.”
Finally, a drinks licence has been granted to Ian and Paula Todd, who have formed a community interest company to convert the ground floor of the former granary – latterly the Fishermen’s Mission – at Eyemouth’s harbour into the Hippodrome arts centre.
The new facility, which will open in June, will host exhibitions, theatre and musical performances and be permitted to sell alcohol from 11am to midnight daily and till 1am at weekends.