AS they prepare for the busiest two weeks of their year, Forfar publicans have issued a timely reminder that, through their Pubwatch Scheme, they are taking steps to ensure everyone has a safe festive season.
Since forming a united front in September, 13 pubs in the town - The Burns Bar, Chapter and Verse, The Masons Bar, Thistle Bar, Osnaburg Bar, Plough Inn, Queen Street Bar, Bar Central, The Stag, No 10, Vine and Monkey, Troopers and the Victoria Bar – have already taken action to deal with a number of anti-social instances including vandalism and assault.
All instances are handled by the committee, chaired by Ian Whyte of the Vine and Monkey, with each incident taken on its own merit and dealt with accordingly.
A vote is taken on what action is to be taken, ensuring the publicans speak as one voice when it comes to decision making and the decision is not that of only one member.
If a ban is not to be implemented, an official warning can be issued with those involved receiving a letter informing them of the committee’s decision.
There is the right to appeal and anyone on a ban who tries to re-enter any premises which are part of the Forfar Pubwatch Scheme will have the risk of having their ban extended, and the police will be called.
Once a ban has expired, it is the right of the relevant publicans whether or not they will allow the person to re-enter their premises.
Karen Kennedy, secretary of the scheme, told the “Dispatch” it is paying dividends, with the message being sent out that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.
She said: “The initiative was working well in Arbroath so the pubs came together to be pro-active in Forfar.
“The good bit is that everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet.
“If a candidate is put forward to Pubwatch, the committee vote, so it’s not down to one person.
“The committee is made up of the publicans. A publican still has the right to bar anybody; whether they bring it to Pubwatch is down to their own discretion.”
A number of offences can be heard by the Pubwatch committee, ranging from the possession of drugs, assault on a member of the public or staff, threatening or intimidating staff, vandalism or under-18s.
At the moment ten members of the public from the Forfar area are on Pubwatch with varying bans starting at three months up to two years for vandalism and assault.
Anyone found in possession of drugs could face a life ban, or a minimum of two years; threatening a member of the public or member of staff will result in a six month minimum ban.
Karen continued: “We are working closely with the police who have already been round various premises with sniffer dogs and metal detectors. There is also support from the mobile CCTV van.
“Constable Ally Smith, the community liaison officer in Forfar, attends all our meetings.
“We would like to build on the scheme and open up better communication with the police and local taxi drivers.”
With the festive party season now getting in to full swing, and various office parties planned for the next two weekends, Karen stressed the Pubwatch Scheme has been put in place to ensure publicans are being pro-active when it comes to dealing with anti-social behaviour in their establishments.
The publicans were not acting as “kill-joys”, but were taking steps to ensure customers, and staff, are safe.
She continued: “It’s not a significant problem in Forfar but we are trying to minimise the problem.
“This is an opportunity for all the publicans to work together.”
At present the publicans form a “communication chain” which enables them to keep in contact with each other by telephone if and when a problem arises, thus ensuring those causing a problem do not simply moving on to the next pub.
Karen concluded: “We want to encourage people from out-with the town to come and have a night out in Forfar, to help the economy. We can’t do that if Forfar has a reputation.”