Early licence for boozy bar

The Grapes on Clerk Street
The Grapes on Clerk Street
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A “HARD drinking” pub in which a customer was stabbed has been granted an early morning licence by councillors – despite police protests.

The Grapes on South Clerk Street lost its 9am drinking licence in April after a catalogue of incidents, including the stabbing of one patron with a screwdriver earlier this year.

Council officers were also said to have been prevented from inspecting the premises by drunk punters while staff made “no attempt” to intervene during the incident in May.

Despite the pub’s record and concerns from police, councillors have approved a six-month trial to allow the pub to revert from 11am to 9am.

Committee members said they were satisfied the new manager, Gordon Turnbull, had clamped down on unacceptable behaviour, although police said the improvement was down to the restricted opening hours.

In April the pub was also ordered to close at 11pm instead of the standard Edinburgh closing time of 1am – which remains unchanged.

Police and licensing officers’ reported a number of incidents between August last year and March, culminating with a patron being stabbed in the back.

Describing the incident where licensing officers were threatened, city licensing manager Martin Rich wrote: “On entering the premises, they were approached by two hostile patrons, who prevented the officers from carrying out their duty.

“This event was witnessed by the duty bar person, who made no attempt to intervene.”

In his police report, Inspector Gordon Hunter added: “The incidents detailed that staff had poor control of patrons, an issue that was exacerbated by the cheap pricing of alcohol.

“The detection of cellophane wraps within the toilet area indicated that persons were involved in the misuse of drugs on the premises.”

Antisocial behaviour had also been reported outside the bar where drinkers smoke.

Insp Hunter said the situation had improved in recent months, but that this was down to the restricted hours and not new management. He urged councillors to keep the ban in place.

Insp Hunter added: “This restriction has undoubtedly affected the dynamic of the clientele frequenting the premises. In view of this, I would urge the board to maintain the current hours of operation.”

Making the case for the firm that owns The Grapes, licensing lawyer Stephen McGowan said that, unlike many competitors, it can now only serve alcohol until 11pm instead of 1am, and so the early 9am licence would allow it to keep up.

He said: “The police would perhaps suggest that [this improvement] is entirely down to the 9am refusal. However, that is not entirely fair to my client as considerable efforts to ensure the premises are well run have been undertaken.”

Councillors approved the six-month 9am licence trial, but expressed some concerns.

Councillor Eric Barry said: “This is a hard-drinking pub. People don’t go there for a coffee and a bucks fizz.”

Convenor Marjorie Thomas added: “If there is any problem with this trial, particularly with regard to patrons being hostile, it will be very bad news.”