A NAIRN pub - which has been accused of not employing security staff - has narrowly escaped having its licence suspended after the owners failed to show up for a vital hearing.
The Star Bar’s licence holders Andrea Raynesford and Mark Robertson had been ordered to appear before Highland councillors to explain why they had not provided stewarding after 9pm at weekends on four separate occasions.
The strict licencing rule was not adhered to at the Church Street hostelry on Nairn Games day last August and on the last Saturday before Christmas.
Police officers also checked the pub on two successive nights last month when a disco was being held and again found no stewards.
But the no show at the meeting today in Inverness angered the Highland Licensing Board including convener Maxine Smith and it looked set to suspend the bar’s licence for the alleged flouting of the rule.
However, the board reluctantly agreed to defer a decision until its next meeting in April following legal advice from clerk Alaisdair Mackenzie who told councillors they had to exercise caution because the licensees may not have received the citation.
Mr Mackenzie also questioned the “bloodlust” from several councillors keen to suspend the Star’s licence and said the board did not show the same desire last year when another Nairn bar was the subject of a hearing.
“There is still an obligation that we have to have their side of the story,” he said. “I think the fair option, to avoid any difficulties further down the road, is to give them an opportunity.”
Ian Cox, the licensing standards officer, reported the Star for the alleged breaches and said the citation to attend had been sent via recorded delivery although he admitted that he could not be 100 per cent certain.
He said experienced publican Janice Young ran the pub on a day-to-day basis but it appeared to be only open during evenings at present.
The board’s vice-convener Drew Millar blasted the bar’s behaviour.
“It seems to me that they are blatantly, whether it is allegedly or not, ignoring the conditions set down,” said the Skye councillor, a former licensee holder himself.
“It is a clear breach of the rules and by not appearing today they are flouting the authority of the licensing board. We can’t talk to them if they don’t come here, I just can’t believe they haven’t bothered sending a representative.”
Police inspector Archie Henderson told the board he was not aware of any serious trouble in the bar but Mr Cox said a 16-year-old had been removed from the premises last month while fights had occurred nearby.
Councillors Allan Duffy, Richard Duffy and Ian Cockburn said it was too long to wait until April and the impasse was not fair on other pubs which did fork out for stewards.
Councillor Duffy (Inverness West) took issue with Mr MacKenzie’s remark and said he did not have any bloodlust for a suspension.
Councillor Jamie Stone (Tain) said the board could be forgiven for thinking the pub was “taking the mick” by not attending the hearing.
Councillor Smith (Cromarty Firth) said she was “extremely disappointed” and urged Mr Cox to convey the board’s deep displeasure.
On the first occasion Mr Cox discovered no stewards were present at the Star last year Ms Young told him she “usually looked after any trouble” herself and after speaking to Ms Raynesford later said the cost of employing them was too great.