THERE was a difference in opinion in the council chamber on Monday morning as members discussed whether to allow alcohol to be sold for an extra hour at a Shetland Islands Council staff Christmas party.
An application from the Islesburgh Community Centre in Lerwick for an occasional licence from 8pm on Friday 13 December to 2am the following day came in front of members of the Shetland area licensing board.
This would be one hour extra than the current standard closing time of 1am. The ticketed event would be for staff from any council department, as well as partner agencies.
The extension was ultimately granted after being put to a vote.
A representative from Islesburgh told councillors that the thinking behind a 2am finish was to keep everyone in the same place – rather than people potentially rushing out before or at 1am to carry on the party elsewhere.
Lerwick North councillor Malcolm Bell said there was a “danger we keep pushing the envelope” with regards applications for one-hour add-ons – referring to recent extensions granted to two rural Up Helly Aa events.
His motion to refuse the application was seconded by fellow town councillor Stephen Leask, who said “the reasons for the extension are quite lame, to be honest”.
Leask said one-hour extensions to Up Helly Aa hops in Brae and Hillswick were granted with safety reasons in mind, such as people getting home in the dark and dispersing people in a more orderly fashion, although councillors did warn at the time against a “dangerous precedent” being set.
The application was considered shortly before councillors approved at the same meeting a general extension that will allow Shetland’s pubs to remain open until 2am during the festive season, while nightclubs will be permitted to stay open until 3am on any day during the period.
The extension will apply from Saturday 21 December until Sunday 5 January inclusive.
South mainland councillor George Smith, however, noted in a debate on the staff party that the event would be taking place just one week before the festive period licensing hours would kick in.
He believed the extension was “not an unreasonable ask” in light of this.
Leask, meanwhile, argued that the issues of safety and country Up Helly Aa events had “no relevance” to a staff party in Lerwick.
Lerwick South member Cecil South said that he would “rather see staff congregate together in place” rather than spread out across various venues, although he admitted he had some reservations about granting the one-hour extension.
“But safety is paramount – whether it be in Lerwick or in the country,” Smith said.
Westside member Catherine Hughson moved to granted the extension, saying Islesburgh had a “proven record” in hosting events.
“I understand about the policy and the hour,” she said.
“Maybe if it’s something that’s going to be recurring, we might need to look at the police again to see if our policy is rigid and good enough.”
The application went to a vote, and Bell and Leask was outvoted by chairman Ian Scott, Hughson, Cecil Smith and George Smith, meaning the extension was granted.
Mareel, meanwhile, was granted a 3am licence on Hogmanay.
It is hosting its usual end-of-year event which will see a variety concert followed by a main show to take in the bells.
The board was informed that extended hours beyond 2am “may be considered appropriate in the case of a special event of local or national significance”.
Shetland Arts’ Hogmanay event at Mareel has been held since 2016.