The Magistrate, Ian Le Marquand, questioned whether the States knew what they had done when they passed new laws allowing people to drink in restaurants until pub closing time without having to order food.
Those who order food are able to stay until 1 am, whereas those who do not order food have to leave after the bar shuts.Mr Le Marquand said: ‘The law appears to have created a state in which in addition to a restaurant licence there is the possibility of selling alcohol to people who are not eating a meal.
Before today I was unaware of the law and I find it alarming that every restaurant has a pub licence.’I wonder if the States understood that that was what they were going to create,’ said Mr Le Marquand.He made the comments during a court case in which the directors of the Continental Restaurant in Bath Street were fined £500 for allowing customers who had not eaten to stay in their restaurant until 11.47 pm.But the time when they should have left the restaurant remained unclear, with the Magistrate thinking it was 11 pm and their Advocate believing it to be 11.30 pm.
Had they eaten, it was agreed, the seven customers would have been able to stay until 1 am.When the case was first called, Mr Le Marquand began by questioning what law it was that the couple, who are the directors of Alchemilla Holdings, were supposed to have broken.
After the charge of breaching their licence on 8 May was read, he asked Maria and José Milho’s Advocate, Damian James: ‘Why should they have vacated the premises?’He then spent time looking through the law and discussing the matter with Mr James before the situation could be clarified, and the couple were fined for breaching their third category licence.Explaining the situation, Mr James said: ‘In essence, my clients had the same difficulties that this court has had.
Their understanding was that their customers were sitting at a table and so were allowed to continue drinking as long as they were not served alcohol.’He added that the Milhos had been in the industry for 20 years and had run the Continental for five years.
He said it was their mistake and they had simply misunderstood the law.Mr Le Marquand said: ‘People have continued to be on the premises and to drink beyond the permitted hours.
If a pub failed to close at 11 pm, that would be viewed as an extremely serious matter.
If I were the Solicitor General I would be referring the matter to the Royal Court.
This is a very serious breach, and if referred to the Licencing Assembly you may well lose your licence.’