Donald MacLeod: Things are slowly, slowly getting better for Glasgow’s city centre… and now we’ve an extra hour to celebrate

Sauchiehall Street in 1950s heyday (Getty Images)

AFTER months of gloom and uncertainty, Glasgow had two reasons to feel more upbeat and cheerful this week.

Firstly, the disruption and upheaval caused by the £7 million regenerative but chaotic roadworks that for too long has blighted the length and breadth of Sauchiehall Street, the city’s entertainment mile, seem finally to be coming to an end.

The road has been narrowed, wider pavements have all but been laid, double cycle lanes have been installed and 20ft tall trees again now grace the avenue.

With all but a small section of works still to be completed at the Charing Cross end, it will soon be possible to traverse this iconic street from one end to another without falling into a muddy hole.

Not quite in a straight line, I admit, as there is still a tight security cordon in place, and will be for some time, where the ABC and Campus once proudly stood before they were both gutted by the fire which also destroyed The Glasgow School of Art.

But even here, especially in the Garnethill area, there are some encouraging signs that life for a few beleaguered traders and residents is slowly returning to normal.

As surrounding streets are once again made accessible and commerce resumes – too late for many, though, who have sadly lost everything they once held dear.

I can only hope that the powers that be do everything they can, financially and more, to ease their suffering.

They could start by releasing of the rest of the £2.5 million emergency relief fund that is still lying in a bank account, unused.

Still, the finishing of the roadworks is a cause for celebration for the city.

Sauchiehall Street in the aftermath of the Art School fire (Ross Crae / DC Thomson)

I hope all Glaswegians, not just the local traders, residents and visitors, will think it has been money well spent, and ultimately something to be proud off. Time will tell.

Both the fires and the ending of the works now present the city fathers with a golden opportunity to boost this whole area, especially within the night-time economy.

Which takes me to my second reason for celebration. In what can only be described as a bold and imaginative decision, one that I have fought hard for over recent months, Glasgow Licensing Board have decided to radically overhaul their policy on late-night extension of hours.

They have announced a one-year pilot scheme to allow some city centre nightclubs, those who meet their stringent public safety, security, service, staff training and first aid conditions, and are members of accredited safety schemes, will be allowed to trade for an extra hour, until 4am and on occasion 5am.

In other words, premises which look after their customers and staff, not just their tills.

Safe and secure premises whose running and operating costs are higher than any late pub or bar, costs that are only ever covered by door money.

These are premises that are well run, well-staffed and in some cases, like The Garage – which I own – are world-famous and magnets for night-time tourists.

However, there are premises, in other Scottish towns and cities, whose very existence is put under threat by those irresponsible boards (Aberdeen, for example) who grant extra hours to anyone with a licence and who use cheap drink as their only incentive.

Glasgow’s is a bold and imaginative pilot scheme that I fully support and am sure will be a success.

Not just for me, my business, and the city of Glasgow, but a success that will hopefully inspire the Scottish Government to bring all licensing boards into line and force them to act more responsibly instead of just the licensee.

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