Appeal hearing is last throw of dice, says Hawick bar boss

Mark Deans at Deans' Bar in Hawick.
Mark Deans at Deans' Bar in Hawick.

A meeting next week to decide the future of a Hawick bar will make or break the business, its anxious owner has admitted.

Mark Deans is appealing against opposition by Scottish Borders Council officers to his plans to reopen a function room at Deans’ Bar in Orrock Place.

Deans' Bar in Hawick.

Deans' Bar in Hawick.

Mr Deans bought the former Hawick YM rugby clubhouse three years ago, and he’s angry that he’s now being asked to spend thousands of pounds on a new ventilation system before its function room can open its doors again.

That ventilation requirement emerged after Mr Deans applied for retrospective permission to reinstate two bricked-up windows and install extractor fans, a request rejected by planners over concerns about noise disturbing neighbours.

At a meeting of the council’s local review body, he will ask councillors to overturn their officers’ recommendation to refuse the bid.

However, if his plea falls on deaf ears, the 41-year-old says he will need to consider whether to call last orders at the bar for the final time, potentially costing its 10 staff their jobs.

He said: “I’m really hoping my argument wins the day.

“I just find it absolutely ridiculous that the previous owners had used that function room right to the point I bought it and all of a sudden there’s a problem with ventilation.

“This is the last throw of the dice. If I appeal it again, it is going to have to go to court, which is just a waste of money and I can’t really afford to go down that route.

“As for the future, if the application is rejected, I will have to sit down and have a look at things because I will basically be left with a room that I can’t use.

“I had in mind for that function room to be used to generate money and now I face never being able to have it open, and it’s all because of one neighbour. That’s what it boils down to.

“If it has to close because of one guy who is basically not happy that I’ve opened and is relentlessly making complaints every other week, including about hearing a toilet flush, it would beggar belief, in my opinion.

“To be honest, this decision next week will make or break the business.”

In a report to a previous meeting of the body recommending that refusal of permission to be upheld, planning officer Stuart Herkes says: “I find that the use of the function room for the accommodation of customers and their entertainment, including music and bands, in combination with the insertion of the proposed windows, has resulted in an operation of the public bar use liable to have unacceptable impacts upon the residential amenity of nearby residential properties.

“I find that the proposed windows installation is unacceptable in itself and that the application should be refused on that basis.”

At that previous meeting of the review body in May, councillors heard that the Deans propose installing acoustic boards around the windows and a killswitch to turn off amplified music automatically if it reaches a certain threshold. 

Appearing at that meeting, Mr Deans’ wife Pauline said: “We don’t understand how the room has been allowed to be used to previous owners but not by us. Why is it a problem for us but not others?

“It feels like we’re fighting a losing battle here.”

Councillors concluded that they needed more information from both officers and the appellants regarding the proposed noise mitigation and postponed their deliberations until next week.

It will be the third time the bid has gone before councillors, so the Deans, though not overly optimistic, will be hoping to get third time lucky.