St Andrews pub beer garden doubles in capacity despite residents’ objections

A St Andrews pub has been permitted to host up to 120 patrons in its beer garden despite the objections of residents who claimed it would disrupt their home lives.

The Saint, on the town's South Street, had originally sought to allow its full legal limit of 235 patrons to use the terrace to the rear.

However, this was opposed by Fife Council building standards experts, who were concerned that the pub's single fire exit - through the building onto South Street - was not sufficient.

Following a prolonged and occasionally bitter hearing with pub representatives and objectors Fife Licensing Board agreed to almost double the venue's existing outdoor limit of 64 as a compromise, splitting it 60-60 across the pub's two rear spaces.

The Saint pub in St Andrews

Nic Wood, founder of bar owner Signature Pubs, is happy with the outcome.

He said: "We've worked hard to make sure we tick all the boxes with locals but there has been a total sea change in how we work.

"A large part of our space inside has been cut off by Covid because of social distancing, and that's why we need that extra capacity outside."

Residents and Fife's own licensing standards officer had objected to the 235-person plan on the grounds of neighbourhood amenity.

David Turner - a London-based corporate law barrister who rents out a home overlooking the Saint's beer garden - said the firm had shown a "lack of consideration" towards locals while Reseda Muir, who lives nearby, said the beer garden was "packed" last summer after Signature erected a marquee.

"People were shrieking and shouting - it was unbearable," she told the Board meeting at Fife House earlier this week.

"We didn't say anything because they had lost so much business in the downturn and thought it would be temporary. We didn't expect them to behave like this after lockdown."

Her husband Ian Muir added that a move from 64 to 235 patrons in the rear area would be a "scary" number of people in one area.

Licensing lawyer Caroline Louden, for Signature, initially proposed a compromise of 160 patrons.

"We think many more people will want to eat outside in the long term," she said.

"The benefits are obvious for us - we need to provide a Covid-safe environment."

The board accepted a motion from Cllr Garry Haldane to grant the pub an outdoor capacity of 120 - but only once a solution to improve its fire safety has been found.

Signature's bid to boost capacity is not the first time the firm has crossed swords with locals. In 2017 the firm failed in its appeal to retain a 54-foot long covered seating area after its permit was revoked by Fife Council.

The authority had been given a ticking off by public sector watchdogs for the way it had handled the original application, prompting the revocaction of the permit made by the pub's previous owners.

Louise MacLean, Signature's sales and marketing director, said: "We've had no complaints over the last year and tarring us with the same brush as the last owners is unfortunate and unfair.

"We've shown over the last six years we can get on with the neighbours. The next step is for them to try to embrace it."

Mr Turner and Mr & Mrs Muir declined to comment.

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