THE Tavern Bar on Eyemouth High Street was given a written warning by Scottish Borders Licensing Board last week following evidence that two 16-year-olds had been served with alcohol.
Lothian and Borders Police had requested that the licensing board review the premises licence held by Douglas Charles Stewart for the Tavern after a member of staff failed a test purchase.
In November 2010 Lothian and Borders Police launched Operation Safer Streets, which is aimed at targeting the unlawful supply of alcohol to underage youngsters. As part of that operation they arranged for two 16 year olds to buy or attempt to buy alcohol across the region in line with the Licensing (Scotland ) Act 2005 which makes provision for the Chief Constable to authorise such test purchases.
Evidence supplied by the police to the licensing board stated that on Friday, April 15, The Tavern Bar in Eyemouth came to their attention as having failed a test purchase. At around 8.30pm that evening the two youngsters went into the bar, while being observed by plain clothes police officers, and bought two bottles of Blue WKD - the member of staff who sold them the alcohol failing to challenge them about their age or asking them for proof of identification.
The member of staff was charged with the offence but the Procurator Fiscal decided not to take the matter further.
A re-test at The Tavern was carried out on May 12 and the staff on duty passed this time.
The licensing board could have: taken no action; issued a written warning; suspended the premises licence; or revoked it.
Assistant Chief Constable, Iain Livingstone, of Lothian and Borders Police, wrote to the licensing board saying: “I respectfully request that the licensing board consider grounds for review under Section 36 (3) (b) of the Act, in that the illegal sale of alcohol taking place within the premises demonstrates a level of negligence and irresponsibility that is unacceptable and contradicts the following licensing objectives: preventing crime and disorder; preventing public nuisance; protecting children from harm.”
At a meeting of the Scottish Borders Licensing Forum at the end of last year police reported that there had been a significant drop in the number of incidents involving under 18s, 31 in 2010 compared to 74 in 2009.
The licensing forum also discussed the issue of under 18s being provided with alcohol by older members of their family and a request was made that when a licensee refused to sell alcohol to someone they believed was acting as an agent for an underage person, the incident should be logged.
Back in 2005 underage drinking in the eastern Borders was described by Lothian and Borders Police as “shocking” and they believed it could take several generations to change the drinking culture.
Since then they have been tackling underage drinking but early in the process statistics seemed to suggest that the problem was getting worse not better.
However, police officers explained to licensing board members that the increase in the number of teenagers detected either drinking alcohol or buying alcohol was largely due to increased activity by the police rather than more youngsters drinking alcohol, and the hope is that this year’s figures will show a continuation of the downward trend seen in 2010.