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New call to scrap Inverness club curfew

By Andrew Dixon

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Revellers in Inverness
Revellers in Inverness

EFFORTS are being renewed to overturn Inverness’s controversial midnight club curfew.

Highland Local Licensing Forum hopes to persuade next month’s newly-elected Highland councillors to change the ruling which stops customers entering late-night venues after midnight.

Revellers are now limited to a handful of venues for late-night drinking, despite some licensed traders fighting to get the restriction dropped.

“It sends out the message Inverness is not a safe place to go out at night,” said forum chairwoman Pat Hayden, who sympathised with smaller pubs and bars suffering because customers are having to leave for clubs just after 11pm.

“I would like for it to be looked at with fresh pairs of eyes.”

The forum, which includes licensees, a student representative, police and social workers, meets four times a year to feed views into the Highland Licensing Board.

Mrs Hayden hopes the board — which enforces the ruling — will reconsider the matter after May’s local authority elections when it will have new chairman and could possibly relax the curfew for a trial period.

“We would like to have the review quite quickly after the board is formed, especially because the chairman Peter Corbett will no longer be involved because he isn’t standing again for election,” Mrs Hayden commented.

Clubs under the curfew are: Nova, Johnny Foxes

Margaret Paterson, the board’s vice chairwoman, said it was always open to listening to the public.

“Although we don’t know who will be on the licensing board, if I’m re-elected I would be more than happy to listen to what they have got to say,” she said.

“The forum put a solid case forward previously but we took the decision that the curfew was working fine.”

But Don Lawson, licensee at Johnny Foxes and The Den, believed the majority of city centre venues were in favour of the curfew which he felt has worked well since it was enforced more than a decade ago.

“If the curfew was lifted for a trial period the late night operators would still have a curfew at midnight voluntarily so there would be no affect,” he said. “We should be singing from the roof tops that Inverness is the safest city in Scotland in terms of our night time economy.”

The latest attempt to overturn the curfew came last June but the board decided Inverness’s reputation as one of Britain’s safest cities was too important to risk.

Police insist the policy protects the public by ensuring people are corralled within a controlled environment and say it also makes it easier to schedule officers’ meal breaks.

In November 2010 former Culloden Academy pupils, Graeme Mackay and Ashley Payne, set up a Facebook group ‘Banish the Inverness Curfew’. The pair also set up a separate web petition which they presented to Highland Council but this also failed to overturn the ban.

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