MORE pubs in the Wee County are establishing permanent outdoor drinking areas with a cultural shift due to Covid-19.

A debate was raised over the issue at last week's meeting of Clackmannanshire Council's Licensing Board Sub Committee, where occasional licenses were approved for two pubs on Thursday, July 22.

As reported during the pandemic, pubs in Clackmannanshire have been looking to utilise outdoor areas for the sale and consumption of alcohol while coronavirus regulations placed restrictions on the hospitality sector.

Many have been applying for back-to-back occasional licenses, at a cost of £10, and which can be granted for a maximum of 14 days.

Some public houses, such as the Royal Arms in Tillicoultry, are already looking to make permanent changes.

Indeed, the pub has already been granted planning permission to extend its beer garden with a variation to its license soon expected, meanwhile it was granted occasional licenses.

There is no obligation on premises to make temporary changes permanent.

However, the licensing officer told the meeting: "What has happened is almost all of the ones that we habitually renewed occasional licenses for are now permanent areas because coronavirus isn't going away so it's been seen as, going forward, something useful: utilise a larger outdoor area, more fresh air, more space.

"And, so far, none of the ones that have been granted on a permanent basis have proven to cause us any difficulty in terms of compliance management."

Speaking to an application by the No 5 Inn in Alva, which was later approved, he added: "We've now been licensing this area for over a year on back-to-back occasional licenses and that's quite simply not the purpose of an occasional license and the allowance has been made purely because of the coronavirus situation."

The meeting's clerk and legal expert pointed out that it costs only £10 to make an occasional license application, explaining that it is something the Scottish Government is looking at.

She added: "From a policy perspective, we would be encouraging people to apply for permanent variations if that's going to be a permanent change to the business plan.

"And I suspect that the way that the culture of drinking outside might have been introduced to Scotland because of the coronavirus legislation that just might become a more permanent change to the way that people consume alcohol in Scotland."

The licensing officer added that the Scottish Government's consultation on licensing fees is likely to increase the amount of money people will have to spend while the number of applications a premises could make in a year could also become limited.

He added: "Everyone agrees the £10 fee is just not sustainable for licensing boards, in simple accounting terms that doesn't even cover the time it takes me to look at the application and prepare a report."