Licensed premises in Lerwick such as pubs will be able to open to 3am during the Tall Ships event in late July – despite concerns being raised by the police, with more than 10,000 people expected to attend the festivities.
Around 16 extra police officers are due to be drafted in to Shetland from the mainland for the event.
Meanwhile premises in Baltasound, Cullivoe and Scalloway will similarly be able to stay open late when the villages host guest port events.
Councillors on Shetland’s licensing board granted the general extensions at a meeting on Monday.
The police’s area commander chief inspector Stuart Clemenson was present at the meeting, stressing caution about the idea of premises being able to open until 3am instead of the usual 1am.
He said there stands to be a greatly increased number of people in town in the early hours, potentially creating extra pressure on the police.
At the moment only one premises in Shetland opens until 3am under current licensing hours – the Trench nightclub in Lerwick.
The Tall Ships Races will be hosted in Lerwick between 26 and 29 July, with music, entertainment and family events on offer.
Legislation permits a licensing board, if they consider it appropriate to do so in connection with a special event of “local or national significance”, to make a determination on extending licensing hours.
This is usually done locally to 3am for the Christmas and New Year period, and also the Up Helly Aa season.
The Tall Ships Races previously came to Shetland in 1999 and 2011.
The board had received an individual application from Mareel for an 3am extension in connection with the Tall Ships Races, which was granted at Monday’s meeting.
The board heard there had also been enquiries on behalf of premises both in Lerwick and further afield about a general extension.
Clemenson told the meeting that the expected crowds of 10,000-plus for the Lerwick Tall Ships event includes local people as well as visitors from “all over Europe”.
This means extra police officers will be drafted up from the mainland, while local staff have had any “days off cancelled” to boost numbers.
Clemenson, who expressed general support for the evening coming to Shetland, said there were over 40 police officers deployed to the previous Tall Ships in 2011, and “limited” offences were recorded.
“My concern is if we just put a blanket on people being able to open to three o’ clock in the morning, then it creates a lot of pushback on us to actually to try police that,” Clemenson added.
But the meeting was reminded that it may be the case that some premises do not decide to stay open until 3am.
Most councillors were in agreement to approve the general extension, with chairman Neil Pearson successfully proposing that premises give advance notice to the board if and when they will open beyond 1am. The deadline for this will be 11 June.
Councillors were unanimous that the Tall Ships was an event of local significance.
North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said: “If this isn’t an event of local significant to the people of Shetland then I don’t know what is.”
Pearson said he felt a general extension of licence would “relieve the pressure of the transportation issues are going to exist” as well as allow for crowds to disperse quicker.
He added: “I don’t believe we have the data to prove that it’s going to cause the significance of weight on our police force that is going to cripple our abilities.”
Shetland Central member Catherine Hughson said the community has a “track record of doing things safely and looking after their own”.
Shetland Central Moraig Lyall advocated the idea of individual premises applying for their own late licenses, rather than a blanket extension being imposed, but she did not receive a seconder.
The extension granted is in line with what officers had recommended.
The licensing hours for all on-sales premises in Baltasound, Cullivoe and Scalloway will be extended between 20 and 26 July from 1am to 3am daily.
For Lerwick the same hours will feature but for the period between 26 and 30 July.