Credit: GG Photography and Illustrations Manager Allison Campbell

New study set to examine effect of changing bar/club opening hours in Glasgow and Aberdeen

By Silas Pease

The study will examine the impact of changing opening hours for nightlife venues on public services, and which groups are most affected by these changes.

A new £1.1m study is being carried out assessing the impact of changes to the opening hours of venues such as bars and clubs in Glasgow and Aberdeen. The study, led by the University of Stirling, will assess the impact of these changes on crime levels, public health, and the effect on public services. 

The study will involve investigators from the University of Stirling, the University of Glasgow, and beyond, and will be funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Public Health programme. Its aim is to assess the extent to which changing opening hours affected certain factors such as rates of assault and ambulance calls for alcohol-related issues, and how these changes may have impacted specific groups. Furthermore, it is hoped that the findings in this study will help inform local and national governments of the potential impact of such changes in the future.

Focus is being placed on Glasgow and Aberdeen as, prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 and its subsequent lockdown, these cities had only recently changed their opening hours for premises with alcohol licenses. For instance, in mid-2019 in Glasgow, a handful of nightclubs including The Garage and Polo Lounge were allowed to extend their closing times from 3am to 4am, though little is currently known as to how this had an impact on public services in the city. 

In a recent press release by the University of Stirling, director of the University’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health (ISMH) and principal investigator of the study Professor Niamh Fitzgerald underlined the importance of this research, stating: “International evidence suggests that late-night alcohol sales are associated with increased rates of assaults, injuries, and disorder. In the UK alone, ambulance callouts due to alcohol are estimated at more than 171,000 annually, costing around £52m. However, there are no UK studies looking at how opening hours affect ambulance callouts, or how they lead to changes in business practices, policing, health services, and wider economic costs.

“Our study aims to understand and assess the impact of later opening hours on harms caused by alcohol, services and costs in Aberdeen and Glasgow, including for specific groups, and the implications for other UK cities if similar changes were introduced. We will also seek to understand local experiences of changes in bar/pub opening hours during the Covid-19 pandemic, and any lasting impact of changes such as curfews and takeaway sales.”

The news of this study also comes at a time when nightlife venues across the country are subject to restrictions due to the current pandemic. As Glasgow currently falls under tier three of the Scottish government’s local protection system, hospitality venues including restaurants and bars must be closed by 6pm and are not allowed to serve alcoholic drinks. Nightclubs, as they are, must remain closed, and there are currently no plans to allow them to reopen soon. Donald Macleod MBE, owner of The Garage and Cathouse in Glasgow and chairman of the Glasgow Licensing Forum, argued in a recent letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that it was “hugely worrying” that there so far seems to be no plan for reopening these venues, even at tier zero.

The study, titled “evaluating later or expanded premises hours for alcohol in the night-time economy” (ELEPHANT), will be undertaken over the next three years.


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