Luxury spa ordered to stop selling alcohol after licence error

Saturday August 19th 2023

Whitekirk Hill


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A luxury spa resort was ordered to stop selling alcohol after East Lothian’s licensing officer discovered it had been operating for a month without a licence.

Whitekirk HIll, in East Lothian, is understood to have been operating using occasional licences granted by the local authority to provide drinks for customers and guests staying in their private lodges.

However a report to East Lothian Licensing Board has revealed that the spa had mistakenly continued selling alcohol throughout July despite having no licence in place.

The report comes as the resort’s bosses apply to extend their capacity for licensed events from the current capacity of 700 to nearly 1,300 to allow it to host outside events and provide its lodge guests with ‘private dining experiences’.

Karen Harling, the board’s licensing officer, has submitted an additional report to the board on an error which saw the spa operate without a licence last month.

She said: “From 7th July -3rd August the premises did not have any occasional licences and made sales of alcohol. On 31st July I spoke with duty manager Ian Wilkie and asked that all sales of alcohol be ceased immediately to which he agreed.

“It was also established at this time that the premises had been selling alcohol as part of a welcome pack for lodge guests for consumption off the premises.

“On review of the occasional licences granted previously no off sale provision had been applied for.”

Whitekirk Hill has applied to extend its licensed area to include a wider area outside its main buildings and holiday lodges.

The resort’s operator said the move would “allow us to provide alcohol at outdoor events, eg mulled wine for adults at our Santa Claus experience, and private dining in the lodges”.

The board will be asked to approve the change at a meeting next week.

Concerns have been raised by Ms Harling that the layout put forward for the extended licence includes a children’s playbarn at the resort and outdoor play area.

She has asked to board to exclude the areas from future licensed areas at the resort.

She said: “As part of this layout the play barn is within the licensed area. Within the new licensed area the outdoor children play area outside the play barn is also within the licensed area.

“In order to safeguard and uphold the licensing objective of protecting children and young persons from harm I recommend that the two areas be excluded from the licensed area so that alcohol cannot be sold or consumed in areas that are specifically for children and families.

“There are significant risks should patrons be able to consume alcohol in areas for children at play and in my opinion the nature of the activities proposed to be carried out in these areas are not suitable for the sale or consumption of alcohol.”

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