Sunday licence for Indian restaurant

By Maggie Fraser

Stornoway’s only Indian restaurant has been grated a licence to sell alcohol with food into the early hours of Sunday mornings.

At a recent meeting of the Western Isles Licensing Board, the majority of members voted to grant the licence — which enables the restaurant to operate until 2am on Sundays.

The application was for a regular extension from 11pm on Saturdays until 2am on Sundays, and no objections were made in relation to the application.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Abarok Ali, solicitor Angus Macdonald stated that there was, however, a matter that was causing him some concern.

“I have a duty to bring up matters which may be of some importance,” he stated. “I have indicated to Board members previously in relation to common law disqualification of members of the Board where there may be conflict.

“The reason I am bringing this up is because over lunch I read the ‘Stornoway Gazette’ and there is mention of the consideration of no Sunday opening of the new sports centre. There is mention of Mr Murdo Macleod (councillor for the Manor Park ward), and it states that, ‘more important than the Comhairle’s policy on Sunday opening is the Fourth Commandment, said Cllr. Murdo Macleod, Manor Park’.

“What I have to bring to your attention is that potentially, you have a member on the Board who has indicated that the Fourth Commandment is more important than the Comhairle’s policy.

“If that statement is correct, then potentially we have someone on the Board who is in conflict with dealing with Sunday licences.”

Mr Macdonald referred to the Licensing (Scotland Act) 1976, Section 2, which details common law disqualification — which usually amounts to a breach of natural justice and gives grounds for an appeal or other review of the decision by way of judicial review.

The Act states that a member of a board, although not affected by one of the statutory disqualifications ‘may be so closely associated with the subject matter of the proceedings as to make it improper that he should act and vote as a member of the board in connection with them’.

Chairman of the Board, Cllr. Donald Maclean, however stated that it was not competent to discuss Mr Macdonald’s points at the meeting, and that any objections regarding members of the Board should be put to the Western Isles Council.

Referring to the application, Mr Macdonald stated: “What has to be shown to the Board is that there is a demand for what is being provided by Mr Ali. He runs the only Indian restaurant in the town of Stornoway. He has a substantial number of customers on a Saturday evening. Currently, in terms of his restaurant licence, he is entitled to remain open from 11pm right through to 1am. What he is looking for is an extension to allow him to cater for the demand which there is.”

Mr Macdonald explained that, when customers come out of local premises on a Saturday evening, they are looking for something to eat. “This is one of the few restaurants where someone can go and sit down and have a meal, having left other premises at 1am,” he stated. “Surely that is beneficial to the community for people to come off the streets and sit in a place where they can have a meal, and they are able to have a drink with their meal.”

Cllr. Donald Macdonald, Harris East, however, questioned what had changed since the application was last considered and refused three months ago.

Mr Angus Macdonald responded that there is a demand for the extension. “If you are going to provide customers with food, they will expect to be able to have a drink, and if you want to have a hot curry, there is nothing better than a beer or a pint of lager with it,” he stated. “That is something which people expect when they go in a restaurant of this sort.”

While seven members of the board approved the application, three members refused and one abstained.