An Italian restaurant in East Lothian operated without a valid drinks licence for seven years after council officers were left unaware the company in charge had been dissolved.
Giancarlo’s opened in Tranent in August, 2015, but the company which held its premises licence to sell alcohol, Pacitti Ltd, was dissolved the following September.
Despite this it continued to pay its annual licence fees to East Lothian and operate as a fully licensed premises.
A meeting of last week’s East Lothian Licensing Board revoked the licence formally after being told its own policy meant the licence ‘no longer existed’ after its holder had been dissolved.
The board’s legal adviser Carlo Grilli told a meeting of the board last week: “Just prior to the meeting today we have discovered that the current premises licence holder has been dissolved at Companies House.
He said licensing laws and the board’s own policy said that in the event of a licence holder being dissolved a licence is revoked.
He said the board’s policy stated: “In the case of dissolution the board takes the view the licence no longer exists as there is no longer any licence holder.”
Mr Grilli told the board the dissolution “has been in place a little bit longer than a few months’, and recommended the board revoke the licence.”
The lack of premises licence holder only came to light when the restaurant missed its annual payment of licence fees and the licensing standards officer investigated its operations.
It is understood the restaurant has been closed for a number of months.
The board heard from Alistair Macdonald, the agent who represented the original licence application, that ‘other clients’ had expressed an interest in taking over the restaurant and revoking the premises licence would mean they would have to start the process again.
But he added: “If that is what they have to do, then that is what they have to do.”
After adjourning the board for private discussions, licensing board convenor Councillor Lachlan Bruce said: “I think our policy is quite clear, the board takes the view that if any licence holder becomes dissolved or is insolvent the licence will no longer exist unless an application for it to be transferred has been made within 28 days.
“We are well over the 28 days now so I see no other way for this licence to be revoked.”
Asked about the reason the lack of a valid premises licence holder was not discovered for several years, a spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “There are more than 300 licences held in East Lothian and only a proportion of these are held by corporate entities.
“It is not the licensing officers’ practice to check all corporate licence holders’ status unless there is reason to do so.
“In this instance the licence fee had been paid until this year and there had been no reason to check the company position of the licence holder.”
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