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Thousands of Scottish bar, restaurant and drinks retail staff banned from selling alcohol

Published:  03 December, 2014

Thousands of bar, restaurant and drinks retail staff in Scotland have had their personal licences revoked after failing to meet deadlines over refresher training.

In Glasgow and Edinburgh alone over 2,300 staff have been banned from selling alcohol, risking missing out on bumper sales over Christmas. It is estimated around 10,000 staff across Scotland are affected.

Leading Scottish licensing lawyer Jack Cummins, of Hill Brown, told that the trade had been repeatedly warned to ensure they met deadlines. He added that there was a lack of sympathy from some quarters, given these people are "responsible enough to sell alcohol - they should have worked this out".

Key staff had to commit to refresher training for personal licence holders by a certain date, and notify licensing boards that the training had been completed by December 1, 2014. However, it seems many missed one or both deadlines. Those who have had a licence revoked are banned from re-applying for five years.

In practice, for businesses whose premises manager has had their licence revoked, they have to take two steps immediately, Cummins warned. They must first notify their licensing boards within seven days, and they must put forward a replacement within six weeks. If they miss the new deadlines, the consequences are dire - the lapsed licence holders could face prosecution, a premises review and possible closure of the premises. Small businesses, where the owner is the licence holder, face major difficulties and the possibility of having to draft in a new member of staff in time for Christmas.

"There's a heavy touch in Scotland - whether all this is worthwhile is another matter," said Cummins.  

He added that the possibility of licences being revoked had been "really well signposted", and advised anyone affected to go and see a licensing lawyer without delay. "They will do their damnedest to try and work it out for you," he said.

Doug Wood, who runs Wood Winters independent wine merchant, said his business was unaffected as all five of the personal licence holders had made sure to renew them on time. But he criticised the heavy handed actions of licensing boards, saying:  "You're proper screwed if you're the only personal licence holder in your business. It's bonkers and not the point of the legislation. Some small businesses face so much red tape, then they make a mistake with their admin and get told they can't trade."

Businesses affected cover both on and off-trades, with pubs, restaurants, hotels, clubs, nightclubs, supermarkets and independent wine merchants all impacted. Even occasional licence holders, such as those holding temporary events like weddings, face disruption.

In the Highlands, 639 staff are affected -that's 38% of those to whom deadlines applied. A total of 766 licences were revoked in Fife and 602 in Aberdeen, according to figures from the Journal of Scottish Licensing