A HELENSBURGH restaurant has been given permission to serve alcohol with its takeaways – after the chair of the area’s licensing board discovered staff were already giving away free beer with orders.

The Mandarin, on West Princes Street, wanted to allow customers to purchase alcohol with takeaway orders from 5pm to 10pm, seven days a week.

That permission was granted by the Argyll and Bute licensing board – but only after its chair, Helensburgh and Lomond South councillor David Kinniburgh, told the meeting he had discovered a Facebook post from the restaurant in April, asking customers “What’s your choice?” between bottled and draught beer to go.

It was then established that some regular customers had received alcohol with their order on a complimentary basis.

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Licensing standards officer Raymond Park told the board that off-sales were not currently taking place.

Councillor Kinniburgh replied: “I understand that is the case, but I am looking at the Mandarin’s Facebook page, and on April 30 they have a post saying: ‘Bottled or draft to go? What’s your choice?’.”

The board then heard that alcohol was given on a complimentary basis for Father’s Day and at other times, with the restaurant’s owners viewing it as a complimentary gesture.

Speaking on behalf of manager Amie Hew, Lynn Nicholson, of Ben Lomond Consultancy and Hospitality Training, said: “The application was going in for the previous meeting (in May) and they thought they would hopefully get the (off-sales) licence by then.”

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Councillor Kinniburgh questioned whether it was possible for this to be done under legislation, to which Mr Park replied: “In reality, probably not. Complimentary is being given away free to everybody.

“If you had to get food in order to get the alcohol then that is not free. It was not something I was aware of, but I can certainly have a chat about it.”

Ms Nicholson then added: “If it was a regular customer that comes in a lot, they would pop in a beer or something in with the takeaway to encourage them to come back. But it was not sold.”

Councillor Kinniburgh then said: “My comment would be that it is probably something that should not be taking place.

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“From what we are hearing, lessons have to be learned. What seems to have been going on here does not fit in with the aims we have, in my opinion.”

Ms Nicholson replied: “I can see where Amie is coming from. As an ex-restaurateur myself, I think she was trying to be nice to regulars and bring them back.”

Councillor Kinniburgh responded: “I appreciate that, but being nice is not always the right thing to do, especially when it comes to alcohol.”

He then moved to grant the application for takeaway alcohol sales from 5pm to 10pm seven days a week, which was unanimously agreed.

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