Licence to thrill (with hot pies and doughnuts)

Ben Milne with Fisher & Donaldson's 'Almost' 24 hr bakery machine.
Ben Milne with Fisher & Donaldson's 'Almost' 24 hr bakery machine.

When is a 24-hour vending machine not a 24-hour vending machine? Well, when it turns out it needs a late hours catering licence.

While lovers of late-night Fisher and Donaldson fudge doughnuts, hot pies and bridies are now delighted to have the machine in action again, they better keep an eye on the clock if they want to indulge after hours.

Last year Ben Milne, the fifth generation in the local family bakery business, cooked up the idea of a vending machine that could serve up its most popular products when the shops were closed.

It proved to be a winner from the moment it was set up, selling out like hot cakes on its second night as word got around, especially among the student community.

However, it was not only students who appreciated having their favourites on demand - local taxi drivers also made a beeline for the machine, glad to be able to get a drink and some hot food during their late night shifts.

Originally it was located in Church Street but then shortly afterwards moved to the MacArthur and Sons branch in South Street, which was where it sat happily doing its trade after the shop closed its doors at the end of the day.

However, when a neighbour started to have problems with noise coming from people using the machine during the night and the community council complained, Ben found himself wrapped up in red tape and bureaucracy.

Discovering that the machine needed a later hours catering licence, he duly filled out the paperwork for the application, which also had to be approved by police before the council gave its seal of approval, although with new restricted opening hours.

While happy to have the machine up and running again, Ben was bemused that it needed to be licenced as a catering operation.

And he has retained his sense of humour - adding a new “Almost 24 hours...”.

“Fortunately the machine can be programmed to shut itself down,” he added.

It was even discussed at this week’s meeting of St Andrews Community Council, which welcomed news that the machine was now properly licensed with restricted operating hours, closing at 2.30am at weekends. Members did question how the notice applying for a licence had been advertised, but were reassured that the paperwork had been properly displayed at the machine.