Hundreds of Scottish licensed premises face being closed on September 1 when new laws come into force.
The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 states that anyone who authorises the sale of alcohol in pubs, clubs, hotels and off-sales must hold a new “personal licence” – and the deadline for thousands of staff to comply with the Act is running out.
Licensing chiefs estimate that almost half of all licensed premises in Scotland have still to arrange the training, examinations and certification needed for the estimated 150,000 staff working in the country’s licensed trade.
Speaking at a presentation of licence certificates to staff at Ayr’s Horizon Hotel, Chairman of South Ayrshire Licensing Board, Douglas Campbell, said: “I fear that there will be premises that will have to be closed because they will not have the necessary number of staff trained and qualified as personal licence holders.”
Mr Campbell reports that the lack of urgency shown by owners of licensed premises is a nationwide problem, with more than half of all 17,000 premises in Scotland still awaiting certification.
Mr Campbell added: “The owners of all licensed premises have had more than three years to comply with the law but many, unlike today’s recipients at the Horizon Hotel, have simply not put their minds to the task. In South Ayrshire there are more than 450 licensed premises employing an estimated 3000 staff. The Licensing Board’s records show that at the end of May only 247 premises had appointed a designated manager and completed the certification process.
“That leaves 200 premises that now have less than three months to go through the process of arranging training for staff, sitting the examination, applying for the personal licence and having their suitability to hold a licence checked by police.
“They are leaving it very, very late and there is no doubt that some will miss the deadline. They really need to act now as delaying just a few weeks could spell disaster for some businesses.
“If any pub, club, hotel or off-sales premises is found to be operating on September 1 without a suitably qualified person in charge, Licensing Boards will have no option but to close those premises. And close will mean close. In the past, licensed premises ordered to shut could stay open pending an appeal. The new law states that they will remain closed until their appeal has been heard by the Licensing Board.
“It is disappointing that we still have so many still to go through the process when it has already shown that it of great benefit to both businesses and the public.
“I estimate that up to ten percent of licensed premises will be closed on September 1, although this includes a number that have already indicated that they will cease to require a licence, either because they have already closed or have insufficient turnover to make it worthwhile.”
Ayr’s Horizon Hotel owners Alan and Elizabeth Meikle, plus an additional nine staff, have completed the training and certification process and Alan believes the new scheme will bring benefits for businesses, staff and the public alike.
The boss of the popular seafront hotel said: “Having staff trained in both the legal and practical aspects of the licensed trade can only improve the service we offer to the public and can also make a valuable contribution to solving the wider problem surrounding alcohol abuse.
“Staff who have trained to hold a personal licence are now showing much greater responsibility to those aspects of the trade covered during their training. They realise that as a licence holder they are now responsible for their actions behind the bar and that failure to comply with the law may result in them losing their licence or having it endorsed. For anyone working in the hospitality industry, a personal licence is now a valuable qualification as it is portable and, in future, bar, hotel and restaurant employers will be looking for staff with a personal licence.”
Alan added: “The law requires that a personal licence holders should be on the premises at any time alcohol is available and as a hotel open 24 hours, this has meant a large percentage of staff having to be trained. The hotel has borne the cost of staffing while others are training, but we have been able to apply for funding for the courses through the ILA (Independent Learning Account) scheme. Anyone earning less than