HELENSBURGH’S Victoria Halls have been granted their own alcohol premises licence – but only after a lengthy debate about outdoor drinking at the venue.

Plans for the hall, which has operated with occasional licences for events in the past, were scrutinised at last week’s Argyll and Bute council licensing board meeting.

But local authority chiefs were only fully satisfied with the plans when it was agreed to bring the curfew for outdoor drinking at the Sinclair Street venue forward from 10pm to 8pm.

Graham Craig, who runs the Sinclair Street venue, spoke to the licensing board at the meeting along with Colin Crichton of LiveArgyll, the leisure and libraries trust which took over operation of the building last year.

He said: “The halls have been operating for many years under occasional licenses. Now we want to run a bar in support of shows and other events.

“We’re not looking for anything where we can constantly have a bar.

“We’re also looking for an off sales license in support of gin tasting and wine tasting events, and others, where people can take alcohol away.

“We would only need it when events were actually on.”

However, it was plans for an outdoor drinking area which caused the most concern among councillors, even after it was assured that the area would not be used when the main gates were open.

It was also accepted that the boundary of the outside area would be prevented from extending to trees, but worries remained over the proposals to close the zone at 10pm.

Board chairman Councillor David Kinniburgh said: “My main concern is there is another function on, there are people wandering about.

“Guests arriving at a wedding I can accept, but if there is a show on, with an interval at 9pm, the licence doesn’t prevent people taking their drinks outside.”

When Mr Crichton stated that he had no problem with an earlier terminal hour, Councillor Kinniburgh added: “That would then create the scenario where it wouldn’t just be for weddings. It would open it up to other occasions.”

It was agreed to grant the licence with the closing time for the outdoor area revised to 8pm.