Edinburgh Airport Starbucks loses bid to serve alcohol from 5am amid councillors' pub crawl fears

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Edinburgh councillors raised fears over pub crawls starting from the airport terminal

Edinburgh Airport’s Starbucks has lost a bid to serve alcohol from 5am after councillors feared some people would make the journey there to take advantage of the early licence.

Concerns about the airport becoming a starting point for revellers on bar crawls and travellers “pre-loading” before flights were raised at a council meeting. The suggestion that people would “go to the airport to have a drink in Starbucks” left some astounded however, as councillors were urged to “be real”.

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The coffee shop, located near the entrance before security checks, is open 24 hours and is currently able to serve alcohol between 10am and midnight. An application before the licensing board on Monday, March 27, sought permission to commence on-sales five hours earlier at 5am.

The Starbucks at Edinburgh Airport has lost its bid to serve alcohol from 5am. Photo by Lisa Ferguson.The Starbucks at Edinburgh Airport has lost its bid to serve alcohol from 5am. Photo by Lisa Ferguson.
The Starbucks at Edinburgh Airport has lost its bid to serve alcohol from 5am. Photo by Lisa Ferguson.

A lawyer acting on behalf of Starbucks said the variation came “at the request of the airport”. Alistair MacDonald said: “This is not somewhere where you’re going to sit for hours and hours and hours, this is somewhere where you’re going to go in for an hour or so and it could be any time of the night depending on your plane time.”

Board member Councillor David Key said he was worried about the consequences of approving the extension. “There’s no reason why a pub should be open at five in the morning at Edinburgh Airport,” he said, “and actually it could be the new thing to do – go for a morning out and start at the airport.”

Councillor Chas Booth also voiced misgivings about increasing the sale of booze in the airport. He said: “My cousin used to work as an air steward and she frequently told stories of how the disruption on flights is largely as a result of people having taken on too much drink.”

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He added he was concerned about “encouraging people to pre-load before they get on the flight” and moved refusal on the grounds of public health and public order.

Taking the opposite view, Cllr Norrie Work urged members: “Let’s be serious here and don’t embarrass ourselves.”

He said: “I really find it astounding that somebody would even suggest jumping on an airport bus to go to the airport to have a drink in Starbucks – I mean come on let’s be real here.”

Convener Cllr Louise Young said it was “very unlikely” people would travel out to the airport early in the morning to take advantage of the early licence.

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However Councillor Margaret Graham said: “This notion that this wouldn’t happen isn’t actually the case. I can very vividly remember when licensing of hotels was different to pubs, many many years ago. On Sundays for instance people actually made the trip to hotels etc because that’s where alcohol was served – so there is that human nature.”

The board was tied 4-4 upon going to a vote, with Cllr Young as convener using her casting vote to refuse the licence variation, despite being in favour of granting it previously.

She said it was better to “err on the side of caution” in the absence of majority support. She added: “I don’t think my opinion should be more important that other people’s opinions. I felt the status quo to reject this was the right thing to do.”

Mr McDonald hit back at the board’s handling of the application, saying he had “lost the will to live”. He said: “I think when agents have been treated the way I have just been treated, I don’t want to do this anymore.”

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He accused members of “not carrying out their legal obligation to permit me a chance to change my mind, to alter the application” after it was indicated it would not be granted.

“The board should have given me the opportunity to do that and they didn’t,” he added.

The board agreed to waive the requirement for the applicant to wait at least 12 months before another bid could be submitted for variation of licensing hours.