Unions denied late licensing

Hannah McNeill

The City of Glasgow Licensing Board is currently denying Glasgow University’s two student unions occasional extensions to their licences beyond 4am. This restriction will affect some of the biggest events for the two unions.

This situation has developed after the police became involved at the Glasgow University Union’s event Final Hive on the night of 31st January. Concerns have since been expressed over the appropriateness of allowing the unions to have licences that extended so far beyond the usual licensed hours.

The Queen Margaret Union was denied an extended licence until 6am for their Spring Break event on Friday 22nd March; instead a 3am license was granted. The decision was appealed and the Union was able to get it extended until 4am. However, this meant that the event, advertised as 10-hours, had to end two hours earlier than planned. As occasional licences for extended hours tend to be granted only shortly before the event starts, the Union were unaware the event would have to shut earlier than planned when selling tickets.

Colum Fraser, President of the QMU, has expressed his disappointment with the situation currently facing the Union. He said: “It is regrettable that our license was shortened last Friday, particularly that we had to argue for a 4am instead of 3am.”

He continued: “[We] know for a fact that the full 6am extension was the result of a police objection. We have requested a copy – or at least summary – of the police objection.

“Interaction with police thus far on the issue has clarified that – in future – a harsh view may be taken to late licenses in the vein of 6am and 8am events that have become regular fixed occurrences on the student calendar. This is obviously quite concerning to us, and an issue that we will be looking to both understand and act on in the months ahead.”

On the night of Final Hive, the GUU chose to shut the premises four hours early, at 2am, after consulting with Strathclyde police. The police noted at the time that there would been significant safety risks involved if the event was allowed to continue. Four police vehicles and at least eight officers were needed to control the situation at the Union and ensure the safety of students and staff. The police arrested one student for the alleged assault of a doorman. Former GUU president, David Lockhart, at the time expressed his desire for the police to give a positive report back to the licensing board about the handling of the situation by the board of management.

Newly elected President of the GUU Gavin Tulloch said: “We have had applications granted with amendments in the past, including our Final Hive night in January, and in these instances we have worked to ensure that the night runs as smoothly as possible within the hours granted to us. GUU works closely with the Licensing Standards Officers to ensure that we operate a safe and responsible licensed premises, and we always seek advice from the community policing team before we submit an application for extended licences. Glasgow City Council Licensing Board has raised no concerns with us over our licensed premises or any specific events.”

The City of Glasgow Licensing Board balances the commercial interests of the premises licensed with what is described as their “licensing objectives.” These include “preventing crime and disorder”, “securing public safety” and “preventing public nuisance” among others. The licensing board routinely consults various groups when they are deciding whether to grant a request for an occasional extended licence. In this case, the police have raised their concerns over the appropriateness of giving the GUU and the QMU occasional licences that extend beyond the normal licensed hours for the unions, after the disturbance at Final Hive in the GUU. It was noted that the Licensing Board would usually consider licensed premises separate from each other, with each request considered by itself.

Both student unions have enjoyed a good relationship with the Licensing Board in the past and have been granted occasional licences for extended hours several times. Some of the most prominent events in the calendars of the two student unions partly depend on being able to get an extended licence. For example, the GUU’s event Daft Friday and the various themed 10- and 12-hour Cheesy Pops at the QMU.

A spokesperson for Glasgow Licensing Board noted that allowing the student unions to remain open until 4am was a two-hour extension on the usual licensed hours. He said: “The standard policy for late night premises outwith the city centre to be able to open to 2am. Queen Margaret Union was granted an extension on an occasional basis until 4am for an event that ran into the morning of March 23. The board had been concerned about the appropriateness of awarding an occasional extension to 6am when other premises do not receive such a licence.”