The City of Edinburgh’s Licensing Board is asking the public to have their say on how the sale of alcohol is regulated in the Capital ahead of publishing a new policy document.
Currently, the times children and young people are allowed into licensed premises is determined on a case by case basis. As part of the consultation, the board is also asking the public whether they think there are too many licensed premises in the city and whether closing hours should be varied for premises depending on where they are located in the Capital.
The new policy will be published in November and will apply until 2022.
Councillor Norman Work, Convener of the Licensing Board, said: “Our city benefits from a rich and varied entertainment scene, to which many of our licensed premises contribute. It is our role in the licensing board to preserve this while, importantly, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the public.
“We’ve already had an excellent response from a range of interested parties to initial engagement on the Statement of Licensing Policy, which has helped us prepare a draft policy for formal consultation taking into account issues arising since the last review in 2013.
“I now look forward to hearing the thoughts of the general public, trade representatives, health professionals, the police and others over the coming months.”
Industry bosses are concerned a blanket curfew could put off families from dining at businesses across the city and that the line between pubs and restaurants is often a grey area.
Paul Togneri of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association said: “With many pubs now offering a restaurant quality dining experience, it’s impossible to say what’s a pub, what’s a restaurant and what’s a casual dining establishment.
“This is a fundamental issue which risks undermining the policy if it is too arbitrary.”
“Tourism is extremely important to Edinburgh and too often we’ve heard stories of tourists with families being turned away because of the restrictions on access for children and young people, whether it be the time or the requirement to have a sit-down meal. This sends an unwelcoming message to visitors and is a one of the most common complaints from many.
“The message from industry in Edinburgh is very clear, allow establishments which are sensibly located and appropriately set up to serve the thousands of families which visit the city and want to dine in locally-owned and family run businesses.”
“While a uniform terminal hour may have the benefit of providing greater certainty for businesses, there remains a fundamental problem with the council’s categorisations of premises.”
Within the board’s geographical area for the city of Edinburgh, there are a total of 1,917 licensed premises, as of March 2018. The board regulates 439 on-sales premises, 513 off-sales and 965 premises offering both types of alcohol sales. Concerns have been raised that occasional licences are being applied for over a lengthy period of time to allow businesses to sell alcohol with no application made for a full premises licence, including pop-ups.
Council officers have suggested that a limit on the number of applications which the board considers appropriate for occasional licences should be given.
Pub goer Brent Millar, 70, would prefer it if children weren’t allowed to enter licensed premises. He said: “When you do go into a pub, as I did, and you see pushchairs right in the middle of the bar I think – I think what is that all about? It becomes a bit like a creche.
“I don’t think there is a place for children in a bar hopping around 10pm or 11pm.
“I think you can’t have everything in life – you can’t have children, drink, social life and everything like you were still in your 20s – you have a massive responsibility.
“Do you want to have them dotting around while everyone is drinking beer?”
Another pub goer said if rules are too strict, it could be difficult for establishments that also have separate function rooms for family gathering and weddings.
He said: “If a bride and groom have children for example and a blanket licence states a certain curfew, what would happen?”
The licensing board has five overall aims which are preventing crime and disorder, securing public safety, preventing public nuisance, protecting and improving public health and protecting children and young people from harm.
The consultations can be completed on the council website and will run until October 1.