A Fife pub has pledged to be a better neighbour to those living above it after a resident complained about the noise and smell of “substances” from its outdoor beer garden.
The Central Bar on Inverkeithing’s High Street was hauled before Fife Licensing Board after George Ferguson, who lives above the bar and overlooks its rear, objected to its bid for six occasional licences temporarily permitting outdoor drinking and family gatherings until September 26.
Following discussions between Mr Ferguson and representatives for operator Hawthorn Leisure, councillors granted the licenses on the grounds that pub bosses engaged with local neighbours to ensure domestic homes were not being unduly disturbed.
The Scottish Government has given licensing authorities such as Fife Licensing Board the power to grant permission for temporary outdoor areas, to compensate for reduced indoor capacity because of social distancing requirements.
Occasional licences are not subject to the same requirement to directly notify neighbours before they are decided.
Ferguson told Monday’s board meeting that he had not been aware of the bid to convert the area to the rear of the pub into a temporary beer garden when it was first approved earlier this year – and that it had diminished his home life as a direct result.
“Between the noise and the smell of substances being smoked out the back drifting in through our kitchen window it’s been quite hard,” he said.
“We can’t keep our windows closed, especially not when cooking, and with the noise coming from outside we can’t even hear the radio we have in the kitchen. The smell is very strong at times.”
Neither police nor licensing standards officers reported any recent or ongoing concerns with the Central Bar.
Caroline Louden, a solicitor from licensing consultancy TLT, represented the bar at the hearing.
She told councillors the pub was willing to try a variety of measures to reduce the level of annoyance to locals, but remained firm that the outdoor area was essential in light of the reduced indoor capacity.
“This is a new situation for us – we hadn’t had prior contact [from Mr Ferguson],” Ms Louden said.
“With Fife in level one people can go inside from 10pm-11pm, and we can look at moving benches, putting up signs and asking people to be respectful.
“What I think we need here is extra management. We’ve been proactive with it and we would like to continue to be. We can be much more ‘on it’ with regards to noise.
“This is vital for the business.”
Asked if he would be happy with extra engagement by Central Bar management, Mr Ferguson said: “If it is the ruling of the board it will need to be acceptable. Personally, I’m not particularly happy with it.”
Dunfermline Central Labour councillor Garry Haldane moved approval of the summertime outdoor seating, with conditions attached requiring the Central Bar management to engage with neighbours and work to mitigate nuisance.
By local democracy reporter Jon Brady