By RYAN TAYLOR
Late-night licensees able to serve alcohol until 2am have criticised a decision to force them to close an hour earlier than usual at the weekend because of the clocks changing to British summer time.
Popular night spots in the town were ordered at short notice to close at 1am on Sunday morning, because that was the time the clocks went forward by one hour.
The move caused mayhem on the streets, as hordes of nightclubbers – many of whom had arranged lifts home for 2am – poured out of the clubs just as the pub goers were heading home themselves.
Revellers were forced to endure harsh weather conditions waiting for too few taxis – many of which were called to a function in Burra – as up to 500 people started looking for lifts at the same time.
Manager of Posers Alan McLeod said police had previously used a “common sense approach” which allowed clubs to remain open for a full three hours after 11 o’clock.
“We’ve had an understanding over the last five years that when the clocks go forward at 1am we can stay open until two. It’s never been written in stone, but we’ve never had an issue with it.
“This year the police decided they were going to stick to the letter of the law and close us down when the clocks went forward at 1am.”
He said the club had received a visit from the police shortly after 10pm on Saturday night. The officers attending asked him when he intended to close.
“My answer was 2am as normal. The customers expect you to be open until 2am, because they have paid to be in until that time.
“After about 11pm we got another visit from a police officer who said we would be closing at 1am. The problem was we had staff expecting to work until 2am, and we’ve got security on duty who were expecting the same.”
Mr McLeod said he immediately felt obliged to drop his entry fee from £5 to £3, and added after midnight it was not worth having an entry fee at all.
He said he had lost an hour’s worth of bar takings, amounting to around £1,500.
“In the past there has been a ‘common sense’ approach and it hasn’t caused any issues. All this did was cause confusion. People had arranged pick-ups at 2am. There was a lack of taxis because the pubs had closed at 1am. There were potentially 500 people on the street at the same time. We speak about common sense policing. I couldn’t see any common sense at all.”
He said many of his customers were asking for shelter while they waited for taxis, but he had to turn them away for fear of jeopardising his licence.
Manager at the Lounge Bar, Derek Hendry, also had customers coming to his door for shelter.
Although the Lounge only has a 1am licence anyway, he said he was left annoyed by how the night turned out.
He said legislation under the new Licensing Act (2009), due to be introduced in September, allowed a level of flexibility at times when the clocks change.
The act says: “The beginning or … ending of British summer time is to be disregarded for the purpose of determining the time at which that period of licensed hours ends and, accordingly, ends at the time it would have ended had British summer time not begun or ended.”
Manager of Baroc, Johnny Shing, said the club had received “no specific instructions” from the police or licensing board.
“We had no clear, specific instructions until we asked them about it. We found out other people were closing at one. It’s quite disappointing. Everybody was expecting to be open until 2am.”
Nikki Robertson, who had been at the Douglas Arms until it closed at 1am, said she had to walk to her home in Quoys after finding a throng of people waiting for taxis at Victoria Pier.
“There was a queue of 20 people and as I was walking towards it I could see more people coming to join the queue. I’ve seen myself waiting for a couple of hours for a taxi, so I thought I might as well just walk home.”
It took her half an hour to get there, but on the way she was left feeling threatened by two young men who had stopped to speak to her.
It had been snowing during the night, and she had almost slipped and fallen on the ice as she made her way home.
Acting Inspector Bruce Gray said police had acted following an enquiry from licensed premises, but added he sympathised with the clubs who had been told to close early.
“During the weekend Lerwick Police responded to a complaint made in relation to extended liquor licensing hours over the period of clocks changing to mark the start of British summer time.
“Police acting in good faith approached those premises and retailers who were to operate beyond the change of clocks advising them to refrain from serving.”