Brighton Has Rock: Dundee Has Humbug

In a recent edition of Scottish Licensed Trade News  veteran of the trade Jimmy Marr accused Dundee licensing board of “killing clubs” by the policies it introduced last year. Until fairly recently in Dundee, pubs closed at midnight, clubs at 0230. The policy change saw pubs able to open until 0100 on Fridays and Saturdays, with clubs enjoying a terminal hour of 0300. The problem has arisen because of the board’s new policy relating to “hybrid premises”. These are premises which provide “substantial entertainment”. If they pass that test, they can open until 0200. Furthermore the local casino is licensed until 0600. The impact on the club trade is devastating.

Marr cites the example of Fat Sam’s, one of the city’s best known nightclubs. With a capacity of 2000, it used to open seven nights a week: it now opens for four hours. Marr’s own club, Deja Vu, opens only two nights a week. He predicts that in a short time there will be no nightclubs left in Dundee. If that is what the city fathers wish, then so be it; however, their reported response suggests that once again it is an example of politicians failing to learn the lessons of history. I have been witness to this daft experimentation a number of times over the years, most notably in West Lothian and Dunfermline. Nightclubs have their name for a reason. Their design and décor render them unsuitable for normal daytime use. Even the most sophisticated of clubs looks out of place when the sun is shining outside. To cater for the fickle youth market, they require regular updating and refurbishment to keep them looking different. That is an expensive business, and is difficult to do without the additional revenue from door charges. Experience has shown that customers simply will not pay an admission charge if all that is on offer is an additional one hour of trading beyond other licensed premises. If the current status quo remains in Dundee, it is likely that Marr’s gloomy predictions will indeed come to pass.

It would be interesting to know the reason for the board’s change of policy. Did the board members understand the implications for the nightclub trade? Or were they simply ignorant of the inevitable consequences of their actions? In the SLTN, board convenor David Bowes, astonishingly, expressed sympathy. He is quoted as saying, “I feel for what Mr Marr is saying. It is unfortunate but we can’t take commercial issues into consideration when we are considering licence applications. We’re just not allowed to.” (My emphasis). Indeed, Mr Bowes, but it is your own policy which you are implementing, not anyone else’s. If you are so unhappy with it that you feel you have to apologise to one of your city’s most experienced and respected operators, then do something about it. Review that policy. If you won’t, then look Mr Marr in the eye and tell him why you won’t, but please, please don’t try to blame someone else.

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