Aberdeen City Council will not input into the licensing process – ahead of a crunch vote on the future of an under-fire city centre pub later.
A rapidly organised meeting of the special licensing objections committee met this morning to consider putting in a representation on the application for a renewed occasional licence for the Draft Project.
But members voted three to two in favour of taking no action.
Aberdeen Licensing Board will meet this afternoon to consider the application from PB Devco for another 14-day licence for the beer tent, erected behind the granite frontage of the former Bruce Millers music shop in Union Street.
There was widespread condemnation for the venue, its customers and the operator as jubilant Scotland football fans forewent coronavirus safety rules to celebrated their team’s Euro qualification last week.
Conservative councillor Ryan Houghton, who convened this morning’s meeting, said it would be a “peculiar step” to intervene.
“To use the council in this way for one specific premises, when we have a licensing board sitting this afternoon feels peculiar to me.
“I understand there is definitely a lot of public concern relating to videos around the premises on the night of a football game where a ‘once in a generation’ – some might say – goal was scored and people were very excitable.
“However I also saw videos of many premises in Aberdeen displaying pretty much the same behaviour and to my knowledge, there is no other request to determine any other premises’ occasional licence.
“So I am a little concerned we seem to be singling out one single premises.
“We have public health officials and police who would be best placed to make objections based on evidence and the facts as they know them, dealing with these matters on a routine basis – as opposed to us, it seems to me, getting together off the back of media interest in this one particular premise.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Delaney – who proposed the council objected – countered: “We have all seen the videos on social media and in the middle of a health pandemic it is very concerning.
“It is very much in order for this committee to put forward an objection, the council is a statutory consultee on licensing matters – the council is perfectly within its rights to do so.
“I feel leadership has to be shown at such a time.
“It is understood people were quite rightly euphoric at the Scotland game given the excellent result.
“We need to look at this particular incident – football matches are not exactly a new phenomenon and licensed premises are very much used to managing them.
“But unfortunately these premises found themselves unable to manage the situation – which anyone could have reasonably foreseen.
“There was a lack of social distancing, shouting, signing – all breaches of Covid-19 regulations presenting serious threats to public safety and public health.
“In Aberdeen, we quite rightly expect the very highest standards with regards to management of our licensed premises.
“The hospitality sector is under an awful lot of pressure right now because of coronavirus, and incidents of this type really do let the sector down.”
Both Mr Delaney and SNP councillor Neil Copland voiced dissent at the outcome of the vote.
Mr Copland said: “I think the council has to send a message here and I am very disappointed.”