Pub industry split on extra hour for city centre bars

The council’s SNP administration has suggested an extra hour could help city centre bars which currently have to close at midnight.

Glasgow pub industry split on extra hour for city centre bars iStock

A bid to allow Glasgow pubs to open until 1am has not been backed by industry figures on the city’s licensing forum, who say it would “not necessarily” be beneficial.

The council’s SNP administration has suggested an extra hour could help city centre bars which currently have to close at midnight.

But a sub-group set up by the licensing forum — which includes members of the hospitality trade and is chaired by nightclub boss Donald MacLeod — doesn’t support the proposal.

A council report revealed the group believed the change “would not necessarily have the benefit of contributing to the late-night economy as there are increasing costs and staffing issues experienced by those in the public house trade”.

However, the Scottish Beer and Pub Association has backed the move as it believes it would provide “a much-needed boost” to the trade.

Paul Togneri, who heads the association, said it would “bring Glasgow city centre into line with other parts of the country, where 1am closures are already the norm and work well”.

Ahead of the Licensing Board agreeing an updated policy later this year, the SNP group on Glasgow City Council asked that “mounting challenges faced by the sector” were addressed.

It said an extra hour “could encourage patrons to remain out for a short period of time, thus further contributing to the late night economy.”

In a letter to the board, the administration said changing consumer patterns, the pandemic and inflationary and cost of living crises were threatening the evening economy.

SNP councillors acknowledged the move may not be viable for some premises in the short term but would be available for four years from late 2023.

Mr MacLeod, who owns The Garage and Cathouse, sat on the sub-group alongside representatives from Glasgow Clubwatch, the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, Police Scotland, the city’s Health and Social Care Partnership and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

It believed “existing transport provision and times of services within the city centre would not support an extension of terminal hours for city centre public houses to 1am”.

Members also “expressed concern that the effects of the pandemic, disruption to services affecting the city’s transport network and taxi provision not being at pre-pandemic levels had combined to reduce footfall within the city centre”.

They said it would be “premature” to allow pubs to open to 1am while a 4am pilot scheme for nightclubs is still being evaluated.

Their feedback, if approved by forum members next week, will be sent to the Licensing Board, which is working on an updated licensing policy statement.

Billy Gold, from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said he didn’t believe the extra hour would be “any silver bullet or any great help”, adding he wasn’t aware of the industry “chapping the door and asking for it”.

Mr Gold, who runs the Heilan Jessie on Gallowgate and also sits on the licensing forum, said there are “loads of places open until 1am and much later” and there “should be some differential” between pubs and clubs.

He also said public transport was “so poor” at night, especially for those who “live in a scheme or outwith the city centre”, with people going out earlier because they are frightened they won’t get home.

Transport issues “hamper hospitality in all its forms”, he added, although he admitted the extra hour “might result in a cultural shift, with more taxis working later”.

The SNP’s letter said: “We are acutely aware of the pressures on late night public transport but again feel that it is necessary to plan for the next five years, and it is our firm belief that policies under development within the city council will improve the city’s transport offer over that time.”

It added — following a recent motion passed by the council — operators would be expected to “factor safe staff travel into their plans” if “taking advantage of an additional hour”.

Mr Togneri, from the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said an additional hour would see a benefit “both for hospitality businesses and the city centre generally”.

“Pubs and bars are still struggling to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, unrelenting inflationary costs and astronomical energy bills. Anything which allows businesses who wish to, to trade longer should be welcomed by the industry.”

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