Steve Cardownie: Sort out confusing rules around children and pubs

Bars should be more welcoming to childre, particularly during the Festival season. Picture: Getty
Bars should be more welcoming to childre, particularly during the Festival season. Picture: Getty
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With the tourist season now well under way it has been brought to my attention that confusion reigns over our licensing laws and their application by various bars and restaurants throughout Edinburgh in relation to allowing children on the premises. In particular, policies adopted by such establishments in relation to children and young people affect both city dwellers and visitors alike.

In terms of the Licensing Act, the only real provision with regard to access for Children and Young Persons is that if children under the age of five are to be permitted access, baby changing facilities must be available. Other than that it is pretty much left up to the local licensing boards themselves to determine matters. Different boards have different attitudes depending on their composition or locality.

Fun at The Yard

Fun at The Yard

The licensing board has a legal obligation to promote the licensing objectives, one of which is to “protect children from harm”, but some boards appear to adopt the attitude that the best way of achieving this objective is not to allow them on licensed premises, which is not only unfortunate, but short-sighted.

Edinburgh Licensing Board’s attitude has generally been to look at the times where access may be permitted, whether children need to be accompanied and if they must be having a meal.

Many Edinburgh licenses do say that children are allowed access if accompanied by an adult “having a meal” but it’s not clear whether it is the child or the adult, or indeed both, that are required to have a meal.

I was recently in a city centre bar which boasted an extensive menu only to have my pint quickly retrieved by the member of staff when I told her that neither I nor my wife would be eating, but that my 12-year-old son would. She informed us that all three of us were required to have a meal “as it’s the law”. There are also questions as to what constitutes a meal and in particular what is “a meal” for a toddler. The Oxford dictionary definition of “a meal” is “any of the regular occasions in a day when a reasonably large amount of food is eaten” so it is subjective as to how great this amount should be.

Dawn breaks over Granton in a snap taken while walking Cooper the dog

Dawn breaks over Granton in a snap taken while walking Cooper the dog

At the moment the board in Edinburgh appears to generally accept that children can be allowed into pubs, with the above criteria applying until 8pm. So visitors from abroad can be expected to be told to vacate the premises with their children at this time when no such stipulations apply in their own country. Not only is this unfair, it puts Edinburgh at a disadvantage when compared to our competitors, all of whom pull out the stops to attract families to their locality.

Licensing lawyer Alistair Macdonald says: “There is provision in these licenses for different rules during the Festival period – for instance, licensed premises are generally granted longer hours – so perhaps the issue could be looked at on that basis and more relaxed arrangements permitted then?”

The newly elected convenor of the licensing board, Councillor Norman Work, is well aware of the issue and its effect on licensed premises.

He says: “We are operating in challenging times as more licensed premises are changing to being more food orientated and more applications are being considered by the board to allow access for children. Each application is decided on merit and a lot of pubs which were granted access for children till 8pm are now asking for later.”

He adds: “The dilemma for the board is balancing a family welcoming capital city whilst meeting 
our objectives of protecting children from harm.

“I welcome the move by the licensing trade, who are making other traditional pubs more family friendly.”

The licensing board is obliged to publish a policy document within 18 months of last May’s election and this will go out to consultation before being finalised. The views of the licensed trade will be taken into account, as will any response from the general public.

Hopefully any new policy will reflect the times in which we live and provide an up-to-date, sympathetic policy towards allowing accompanied children onto licensed premises.

The Yard has been going the extra mile for 30 years

I paid a visit to The Yard at No.22 Eyre Place on Sunday to find it bustling with activity as the doors were thrown open to the public on a “Sunday Funday”.

The Yard runs adventure play services for disabled children, young people and their families in the East of Scotland.

It offers disabled children and their siblings the opportunity to take part in creative play both indoors and outdoors with some adventure.

Victoria Armour, communications manager at The Yard, told me: “We see over 2000 children and young people aged two-25, many of whom have multiple and complex needs, and all of whom show tenacity, spirit and determination every day.

“Each of these children is offered a unique and dynamic play experience.” To celebrate turning 30, The Yard’s Big Fun Raiser 2017 is set to be the biggest birthday party of the year – a black tie ball with a difference on Saturday, September 30, at the Sheraton Grand and you’re invited! To find out more and book your place, visit now.

The operations ethos is to foster activities which are new, require effort and a little determination and which generates a real sense of achievement when completed.

There are 33,000 children with disabilities in Scotland and The Yard plays its part in helping those who attend “develop their full potential, confidence, self-esteem and life skills.

“The Yard” is constantly on the look-out for volunteers and further information can be sought through its web page.

I’m following Cooper’s lead!

Depressing news for some I suppose but I have recently taken on a new lease of life since being charged with the responsibility of exercising the family dog, Cooper a two-year-old Border Collie.

Dawn walks through the city have led me to places I haven’t been to for many a year, Cramond to Queensferry, Arthur’s Seat, Corstorphine Hill and Portobello Beach have all been visited on a regular basis.

A good brisk, early morning walk followed by a couple of Bloody Marys and black puddin’ roll – ye cannae beat it!