Licensing forum agrees response to 1am opening for Glasgow city centre pubs plan

A bid to extend pub opening hours in Glasgow city centre until 1am is facing opposition amid a claim there is “no real desire” for the change.
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Glasgow’s SNP administration has asked the licensing board to consider an extra hour as it believes the move could help bars which currently have to close at midnight.

It has been backed by the Scottish Beer and Pub Association.

But the local licensing forum — made up of trade representatives as well as health and police figures and the Chamber of Commerce — has now approved a consultation response, which doesn’t support the plan.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Donald MacLeod, who chairs the forum and represents the Concert Promoters’ Association, said the 1am suggestion was “one of the most contentious issues” discussed by a sub-group.

Mr MacLeod, who runs The Garage and Cathouse, added: “Yes, I do own nightclubs, but at no point was the fact that I own nightclubs used as a vehicle to stop anybody getting increased hours.”

He added the view of the sub-group “as a whole” was not to rule out the 1am proposal “out of hand” but that there should be a consultation process, similar to the one for the 4am pilot scheme in nightclubs.

He said: “It would be wholly wrong for the council just to sweep in and bring in an extra hour for pubs without consulting the very group that has helped put the policy together.”

Glasgow’s licensing board is in the process of developing an updated policy and will consider the SNP’s request. As part of that process, the licensing forum was asked for its views and formed the sub-group.

The council administration said the 1am change could “encourage patrons to remain out for a short period of time, thus further contributing to the late night economy.”

It acknowledged the move may not be viable for some premises in the short term but, if included in the policy, would be available for four years from late 2023.

Mr MacLeod said, when helping to develop previous policies, the forum had “tried to come up with something that suited Glasgow that we could all be happy with and work with going forward.”

He said the city centre is “on its knees” as “people are not coming in”, adding he had sell-out live shows where there were 150 “no shows” as people were “buying the tickets and months later realising ‘I can’t afford to go out, how do I get home?’”

Mr MacLeod said that is “a massive problem” which the council “should be focusing on fixing” and he was hearing “no real desire” from the trade to allow pubs to open until 1am.

He claimed: “When they moved the pubs to the same hours as the clubs in Aberdeen, you saw the death of nightclubs. We are trying to get a fair system, something that is spread out.”

Billy Gold, from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, added: “We think it’s essential there is a separation between public houses and nightclubs. Personally speaking, as a publican and an operator, I can see all sorts of pitfalls with the 1am thing.”

He said he couldn’t see benefits for customers or staff and he wasn’t aware that the trade was pushing for the change.

However, the Scottish Beer and Pub Association said allowing pubs to open until 1am would provide “a much-needed boost” and bring Glasgow “into line with other parts of the country” where 1am closures are “the norm and work well.”

Public transport and taxi shortages were also raised by the forum, with the sub-group reporting “existing transport provision and times of services within the city centre would not support an extension of terminal hours.”

The SNP’s letter to the board said councillors are “acutely aware of the pressures on late night public transport” but believe council policies under development will “improve the city’s transport offer over that time.”

A Police Scotland representative said he didn’t believe 1am opening for pubs would have a “major impact” on policing. He added: “I’m talking city centre specifically here, we already have responses in place.”

Once the licensing board has produced a draft policy statement later this year, it will be presented to the forum for additional comments.