Thirsty cruise passengers arriving in Aberdeen in the morning are being frustrated by “stifling” licensing rules, a city pub group has claimed.
PB Devco, which runs 10 Aberdeen venues, has suggested Granite City bars are being “penalised” by mandatory limits on how long they can be open.
Currently, licensed premises are unable to remain open longer than 15 hours a day.
For venues which function late into the evening, this rules out any chance of an early opening time.
Maybe a little early for some, but by mid-morning they told us of their delight at the novelty of a tipple in one of the many grand granite churches converted into venues.
Other bars, like the St Machar in Old Aberdeen, have struck deals with tour operators to ensure a steady stream of visitors taking in the historic sights.
And it has led to bumper takings.
15-hour trading ‘stifling’ Aberdeen’s cruise tourism boom
And the Soul and College bar owners, run by Stuart Clarkson and his family, believe the ship is sailing on their opportunity for more trade.
Their call for change came as the Aberdeen Licensing Board adopted largely unchanged policies, which included maintaining the “reasonable” 15-hour limit.
Asked for input on the rules PB Devco and other city pub bosses will have to play to, the company made its case for change.
In 2024, at least 55 cruise ships are expected at the new south harbour at the Port of Aberdeen.
Those will follow a first year of such large-scale cruise tourism, when more than 40 vessels docked arrived.
On PB Devco headed paper, the pub bosses urged a rethink.
They wrote: “2023 saw the Port of Aberdeen open and the city was awash with cruisers in the morning queuing at the gates of our venues to order alcohol within beautiful, licensed premises.
“Is still having a 15-hour continuous (trading) stifling the diversification of our city?
“Licensed premises are now no longer divided into different classifications
such as bar, pub or nightclub within Aberdeen. Instead many venues are choosing to operate as a hybrid to capture as much trade as possible to keep afloat.”
They continued: “Should these hybrid premises be able to accommodate certain types of clientele in the mornings, afternoons, and early evenings before transforming into a late-night venue rather than being penalized as they have already been open for 15 hours?
“We should be encouraging a dynamic, vibrant, and evolving licensed trade on an international level whereby businesses that offer a fantastic product in a safe environment thrive.”
Pub bosses fear ‘ridicule’ for trying to open later
PB Devco, which also runs Babylon, So… NYC, The Howff, The Queen Vic and Vovem Meat and Liquor, also hit out at a lack of flexibility about staying open later.
By the start of last month, licensing chiefs were yet to identify any dates where there should be widespread late-night opening across Aberdeen.
“Many applications that have been sought at board level have been ridiculed,” PB Devco, which also runs Motif (formerly Draft Project), moaned.
“Therefore, what and when is deemed an acceptable extension for a licensed premises?”
Aberdeen licensing bosses unswayed by pub chief’s cruise line
Council licensing solicitor Sandy Munro shrugged at the call for longer trading.
“We made fairly drastic changes last time to licensing hours. This time, in fact, I don’t think we have changed anything at all,” he told the licensing board.
“We’re getting both ends of spectrum. Some are saying hours should be longer, some are saying shorter.
“It’s there for your consideration.”
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Licensing board convener Neil Copland said he was “happy with the hours as we have them”.
The draft licensing policy was agreed unanimously – sinking PB Devco hopes of cashing in on Aberdeen’s fledgling cruise tourism.