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Dundee pub owner’s fury at licence ban which cost him at least £12k in government grants

Paul Rae, landlord of the Albert Bar in Dundee.
Paul Rae, landlord of the Albert Bar in Dundee.

A publican is furious after losing a government grant that could mean the difference between his pub surviving beyond Covid-19.

Paul Rae, who took over the Albert Bar just months before the first lockdown last year, said he stands to lose at least £12,000 after being accused of breaching Covid-19 regulations and receiving a ban.

However, while he is prepared to accept he may have broken licensing law, Paul is adamant he did not breach any Covid-19 rules.

Paul Rae, landlord of the Albert Bar in Albert St, Dundee is concerned about the future of the business.

Mr Rae claims he was not made aware that accepting a ban from Dundee City Licensing Board would prevent him receiving a £2,000 per month strategic framework grant.

The grant, which is administered by local authorities, also provides a £6,000 top-up to smaller businesses like the Albert Bar.

He said: “Back in August I was visited by police officers at 1.15am, long after the pub had closed at 10pm as was the government rule at that time, after the pubs reopened after the first lockdown.”

“My last customers left just after 10pm that night but my partner and myself remained behind to clean the pipes, generally tidy up and prepare for opening the next morning.

“Also in the building with us were two other family members. The doors were closed and there was no noise, no music, no television and no one sitting drinking.

“There was an unopened tin of cider on the bar and one glass with around an inch of vodka in it.”

Mr Rae said that he was reported by the police and as a result the council’s licensing board banned his licence for two months.

He said: “This was a virtual meeting and I accepted the ban at the time. I understand I could be in breach of licensing laws but I don’t believe I was breaking any Covid-19 rules.

“At no time during my hearing was I warned that if I was banned would I lose the government grant given to hospitality.

“If I had been I would not have accepted this and I would have gone to court over it.”

Councillor Ken Lynn

He said: “This is going to cost me dearly and could mean me losing the pub completely, which I was already fearful of because of the closures and financial cost to pubs because of the pandemic.

“I really don’t believe the punishment fits the crime and the consequences to me are way out of all proportion.”

In October Mr Rae feared his business would go to the wall as the city faced even tighter Covid-19 restrictions.

He said at the time: “My current financial situation is dire and I feel there is nowhere to go to get assistance.

“I have been trying everywhere to get help but no one seems to be listening, and I don’t know where to turn to for help now.”

A letter issued to Mr Rae by Dundee City Council last month stated: “We have been informed by the Licensing Board that at Thursday’s Board meeting you had your licence temporarily suspended for one or more Covid related breaches.

“As such you are no longer eligible to receive the above grant and we would ask that you repay the grant to the account below within the next 7 working days.”

Ken Lynn, depute convener of Dundee City Council’s licensing committee and Maryfield councillor, said he would look into the situation.

He said: “I would hate to see a business go to the wall for any reason. It is never the intention of the licencing board to bring about the closure of any of our city pubs.

“If he has breached licensing regulations he has to pay the price but I would like to look into this further.”

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This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.