Nipping yarns: Janet Hood, BII Scotland
28 September 2009 | By Corinne McPartland
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Janet Hood, as head of legal for BII Scotland, is helping pubs and clubs catch up with the country’s new licensing laws. By Corinne McPartland
The subject of alcohol, and in particular its impact on health and social responsibility, is high on the Scottish government’s agenda. And for Janet Hood, the head of legal for the Scottish arm of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII Scotland), it is a 24-hour business.
“I’ve been in this industry for five years now and it’s a fabulous industry,” enthuses Hood. “I like the fact that it’s a trade that has the ultimate goal of making people happy.”
BII Scotland is the professional body for the licensed industry in the UK, which covers pubs, hotels, off-licences, restaurants, clubs, shops and supermarkets and all other places where alcohol is sold.
Hood’s main duties include helping people who are involved in the drinks industry come to terms with the new licensing laws, which came into force on 1 September this year, as well as offering round-the-clock support in the form of a special licensing helpline.
“I once got a phone call at 2.15am from a panicked nightclub owner who was about to be shut down by the police, who said his doormen were wearing their ID badges unlawfully around their necks instead of on their arms. I got on the phone to the young officers and told them why they were wrong and probably prevented a riot of 1,500 partygoers inside the venue,” she recalls.
But Hood’s job is not a typical in-house role, and not only because she is the only person who makes up the legal team, but because her job is to serve BII Scotland’s members, not to act as a legal adviser to the body.
“It’s my role to give advice to our members,” she explains. “For example, I’m currently taking part in 32 roadshows across Scotland to educate people on their statutory rights and how the new [licensing] laws will affect them.”
These new laws are the highest priority for Hood at the moment - she says one in five licensed premises in Scotland have failed to open since the new laws were introduced earlier this month.
Hood says venues, including pubs, hotels, shops and community centres that sell alcohol, are among those that have been forced to close because they do not have the correct licences in place.
Under the new laws, both a premises licence and a personal licence are required. While some premises are waiting for their licences to be issued by local authorities, many others have yet to lodge applications.
“A lot’s already been said about the bureaucratic nightmare that the introduction of the new licensing regime has been,” she says. “But let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the significance of this as part of a much bigger picture.
“Today we have 20 per cent fewer small businesses in Scotland than we did on Monday. That’s 20 per cent fewer social hubs for communities - 20 per cent fewer amenities in those hard-to-reach towns and villages, which are home to many members of our population and for which Scotland is so well loved.
“In simple terms, we’re killing the very communities on which our tourism industry and the wider economy of Scotland depends.
“We recognise that irresponsible sales of alcohol and reckless drinking cause harm; however, we also recognise - as did the government at the start of this reform - that most licensees retail alcohol responsibly.
“The Scottish government should be trying to tackle the social problems that lead to alcohol abuse and not try to make scapegoats out of licensees.”
One thing you can say about Hood is that she is passionate about her job. Nothing evidences this more than the plethora of boards and panels she sits on.
Hood is an active member of a number of Scottish government institutions concerning alcohol: the first National Licensing Forum; the Law Society of Scotland’s licensing law reform committee, which she heads; the board of the Scottish Tourism Forum; VisitScotland chairman’s industry committee; the Alcohol Producers & Retailers committee; the Scottish government’s alcohol committee; and the board of Alcohol Support.
Hood, though, claims she does not mind dedicating so much of her time to her career as she thinks of it as so much more than that.
“I love what I do,” she says, “because I feel it’s more than just giving legal advice - it’s providing a service to Scotland.”
Organisation: BII Scotland
Industry: Drinks licensing
Head of legal: Janet Hood
Reporting to: CEO Neil Robertson
Company turnover: Approx £5m
Number of employees: 55
Total legal capability: One
Main external law firms: Bristows (London), Anderson Strathern (Scotland)
Annual legal spend: Approx £50,000
Janet Hood’s CV:
1982-83: LLB, University of Edinburgh
1982-84: Trainee, Aberdeen City Council
1984-2005: Junior solicitor and principal solicitor, Kincardine and Deeside District Council
2005-present: Head of legal, BII Scotland