Check for extra festive hours

Extended hours policies vary from board to board

Glasgow and other areas offer extra hours

A LICENSING lawyer has urged operators looking to take advantage of extended trading hours during the Christmas season to check the qualifying requirements set by their local licensing board.

While many boards will offer automatic hours extensions over the festive season – either for certain days or a set period – those looking for additional hours may have to apply.

And festive hours policies can vary considerably from area to area.

Aberdeen City’s licensing board, for example, will grant an extra hour to all “on consumption” premises which adhere to the maximum 15-hours continuous trading in a 24-hour period, excluding casinos, on the Fridays and Saturdays leading up to Christmas (December 13 and 14, 20 and 21), as well as December 26 to 28 and Hogmanay. But those looking for additional hours outwith these dates must apply to the board four weeks in advance of the requested date.

In Aberdeenshire, which has three divisional boards – north, central and south – the policies vary. From December 24 to 26 and December 31 to January 2, premises within north Aberdeenshire defined as a ‘nightclub’ can trade until 3am, while all other on-trade businesses can trade until 1.30am. Both central and south’s policies state that on-trade venues can open until 1.30am on December 20, 21, and 24 to 28 – and until 3am on December 31.

However, all three boards carry the same stipulation: festive seasonal hours must be accounted for in the seasonal variations section of the operating plan to take advantage of these extra hours.

The same precondition is set by Edinburgh, Fife and Glasgow’s boards.

For capital operators who meet that condition, there is an automatic two-hour extension to their terminal hour from December 18 to January 3.

In Fife, licensees can utilise an automatic extension to a 1am terminal hour from December 2 to January 2.

And in Glasgow, during its set festive period – from Sunday November 30 to Tuesday January 2 – all on-trade venues within the city centre can trade one additional hour beyond their terminal hour. Operators outwith the city centre can trade the additional hour on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the above festive period, as well as December 24 to 26, December 31 and January 1.

Meanwhile, Highland licensing board will allow on-sales premises to trade until 2am, and late night premises which provide “significant entertainment” continuously from 10pm will be able to trade until 4am on all Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between December 6 and January 3, as well as December 24 to 26, 31 and January 1.

However, to take advantage of the extended hours, operators need to include a seasonal variations statement within their operating plan – and must notify the board and police prior to December 1 the nights on which they intend to stay open for these hours.

In the Borders, operators with a seasonal variation can trade until 1am on December 24 to 26, 31 and January 1; late night premises can also apply to trade to their weekend terminal hours on these days too.

Jack Cummins, licensing director at Hill Brown Licensing, said: “My message is: get on top of your festive trading possibilities without delay.”