THE BRAE Hall has been granted an hour’s extension to its licence for the Delting Up Helly Aa hop night this weekend – despite warnings that it could set a “dangerous precedent” for future events in the isles.
The application to extend the hours from 1am to 2am on Sunday (17 March) was approved by the Shetland Islands area licensing board on Tuesday.
The hall wanted an extra hour of drinking up time to make for a “less frantic exodus” of revellers – “meaning things will be more relaxed with people feeling they can take their time and hopefully leave in a more orderly fashion”, the hall wrote to the board.
The Hillswick Hall had earlier been issued a similar licence extension for the same reason at the Northmavine Up Helly Aa in February and the Brae Hall’s Graham Farmer told the board that this encouraged the committee to ask for the extension.
But some councillors had reservations about granting the extension, with south mainland member George Smith saying he was disappointed that it was deemed that drinkers needed more time to finish up to allow them to leave safely.
Farmer insisted the bar would shut at 1am as usual, although the extension would mean that drink could technically be sold until 2am – something which Smith said could set a “dangerous precedent”.
“Be careful about what we are granting here – not necessarily for this organisation, but for the future,” he warned.
Lerwick North councillor Stephen Leask added that he would be against any “subterfuge” in attempting to sell booze until 2am, with suggestions that licensing staff could check up on whether the hall was sticking to closing the bar at 1am – something which was deemed unrealistic.
Farmer explained that the increasing popularity of the hop night in Brae meant that hundreds of people will be flocking to the hall on Saturday, and with a minimal number of staff on hand, dispersal in a short space of time can be difficult.
North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper said the extra hour at Hillswick had proved worthwhile and added that it can be difficult for people to get taxis quickly at end of events at country halls, leading to some people walking in the dark.
“I’m in favour of it but I do accept it’s not a panaceum for everybody,” he said, with the extension ultimately approved by councillors.