Rulings spark hours battle

Nightclub owners criticise Dundee and Aberdeen decisions

by Dave Hunter

TWO licensing boards on the east coast of Scotland have drawn fire from some corners of the trade over decisions on opening hours.

Dundee licensing board has changed its late-night hours policy to create three distinct types of premises: nightclubs; premises with “substantial entertainment”; and pubs.
Under the new system, which came into force late last month, clubs will be able to apply to open until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights, with pubs allowed to open until 1am on those nights.
Premises with substantial entertainment, sometimes referred to as ‘hybrids’, can apply to remain open until 2am, although those with existing 2.30am licences will not lose those hours.
Speaking to SLTN, Ian Maclagan, general manager of late-opening bar Duke’s Corner in Dundee, welcomed the changes, but said they could mean that it will no longer be worthwhile for hybrid premises to apply for later opening times.
“It may be that hybrid pubs have to rethink their opening times,” he said.
“Is it worth opening till two o’clock? You’ve got to have doormen on, somebody selling tickets, you’ve got to have a DJ on. For the extra 45 minutes you’re going to get after a pub, are people going to be wanting to go to another pub? I think the nightclubs will do well out of it, but I think [hybrids] will lose out.”
However, Peter Harvey, general manager of Dundee nightclub The Vu, said the late night market in the city will continue to be “diluted” by the range of different opening times.
“You’ve got all these places opening till half two, so you get a party of six here or a party of ten there, and it just dilutes the atmosphere throughout the whole of the Friday night in all the pubs and clubs,” he said.
Harvey argued that the city should return to a midnight terminal hour for pubs, with clubs closing at 2.30am.
His comments were echoed by Donald MacLeod, managing director of nightclub firm CPL, which operates The Garage in Aberdeen.
The city’s licensing board recently granted a 3am weekend licence to cocktail bar Dusk.
“My general thing has always been: pubs are pubs, clubs are clubs and casinos are casinos and for the life of me I can’t understand why people always want to change this, to fix something that’s not broken,” said MacLeod. He added that granting later opening hours to bars was forcing the trade to “fight over a diminishing return”.
But Kris Lovie, general manager of Dusk, defended the new trading hours, saying the decision to apply for a 3am licence was “driven by our clientele”.
“We’ve got quite a broad clientele, but there’s a lot of corporate and slightly older clientele,” he said. “What they were looking for was an alternative to a nightclub, a strip bar or a casino at the end of an evening.
“It was to offer a haven, essentially, for these people.”