East Lothian venues get early drinks licenses for rugby world cup, despite police concerns

A rugby club and hotel have been given the go-ahead to serve breakfast drinks to customers who want to watch rugby world cup games live, despite concern from police.

Saturday, 31st August 2019, 9:27 am
Exterior shot of North Berwick Rugby Club and Recreation Park. Picture: Gordon Fraser

North Berwick Rugby Club and the Nether Abbey Hotel in the town both asked East Lothian Licensing Board for a variation in their drinks licence to let them serve alcohol during live games beamed in from cup host country Japan.

Police objected to the 
applications on the grounds it could set a precedent and result in an increase in crime and disorder.

However Lothian and Scottish Borders divisional chief superintendent John McKenzie insisted the force had no problem with people gathering to watch the games – just serving them alcohol.

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In a letter objecting to both applications Mr McKenzie said: “It is pertinent to note that Police Scotland has no objection to the premises opening early to allow patrons to watch the rugby world cup and breakfasts to be sold, if there is no alcohol for sale or supply.”

He warned: “Alcohol fuelled violence and disorder continues to be a problem in East Lothian. Recorded crime figures demonstrate that the longer and later licensed premises are open the higher the likelihood of crimes of violence occurring.”

Despite police concerns the board ruled that there were exceptional circumstances at play with the world cup games affected by time differences.

Councillor Jane Henderson said: “I think these are a one-off event.”

And fellow councillor Willie Innes added: “There is no doubt the world cup is an important sporting event.”

The rugby club was granted permission to extend its licence to serve alcohol from 8.30am on Sunday, September 22, when Scotland’s opening game to Ireland is held and from 9am on eight subsequent days when there are Scotland games or games of significance over the tournament which runs until the final on November 2.

A condition was set that all those attending should be on a pre-ordered list and must buy breakfast. Clubhouse manager Douglas Paul told the board the events would not be advertised and were for members and guests only.

Nether Abbey Hotel was granted permission to start serving “champagne breakfasts” from 8.15am on Sunday, September 22 until 11am for those who wanted to watch the game. They were also ordered to only allow people who pre-booked breakfast to attend.