More voices are being added to calls for authorities in Perthshire to change their alcohol licensing standpoint until bars can reopen.
Now, Ryan Mollison, who runs The Anglers Inn in Guildtown, is calling on a drastic rethink of the approach to the annual charge to support struggling landlords while pubs remain closed.
Ryan took on the historic watering hole in July 2019 and managed half a year of solid trading before being thrown into turmoil.
Having lost months of value from last year’s licence, Ryan has barely been able to pull a pint since renewing.
His family business have received support through the council and suppliers, but have had to cut staff after seeing bookings dry up.
Ryan feared that if he let his paperwork lapse, he’d face a bureaucratic hold-up to serve booze again and face significantly higher fees by reapplying from square one.
The licensing board is a separate legal entity to the council, and officers confirmed that by the end of September, its income had dropped by two thirds on the previous year.
Ryan said: “We’re waiting to reopen, but we’re planning for Easter weekend at the earliest.
“When we were told we couldn’t serve alcohol indoors, it was a big loss.
“The license cost just under £200 but it will be nearer £500 to reapply from scratch.
“We’ve lost two months of this licence already. I think it should be paid in monthly instalments, where if you can’t serve alcohol, you don’t pay.
“We’ve had some great support but when you face little things like this, it’s just difficult.”
Licensing board officers wrote to Mr Mollison, who has been offered fee postponements from the bodies which license his bar’s music and TV, to say that abatements had been considered but ruled out in October.
Council bosses admitted that if they subsidised alcohol licences, they would be cornered into providing the same reprieve for holders of all types of licence.
Board convener Kathleen Baird said: “Interestingly, more than 500 businesses have paid their licence fee already.
“Most have paid in full but we are giving people the opportunity to pay in instalments. Very few have taken this up.
“Normally, all the licence fees are charged in October. Most have been paid, a few licences have been surrendered and a few are outstanding.
“We aren’t hounding people for payments, but they will need to be paid. I’m delighted so many firms have had the confidence to pay now.
“It must be absolutely terrible just now and I really hope they can reopen soon.”
Perth and Kinross Council said they are keeping the position for 2021/22 under review.
John Swinney, SNP MSP for Perthshire North, also called for publicans to be supported.
“Pubs are amongst the businesses that have been most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“It would therefore be appropriate for the licencing board to consider an approach to licence fee collection that reflects the current difficulties facing publicans.
“I have raised this matter on behalf of several constituents with Perth and Kinross Council’s chief executive, but this decision is ultimately one for the licensing board.”