CALLS for outdoor drinking at a new cafe in Tranent to be curtailed at 8pm because of the “volatile” nature of town centres have been rejected.

Local businessman George Thomson applied to be allowed to serve drinks at outside tables at the new eaterie in the town centre as part of a huge refurbishment of the former Co-op building in the heart of the town.

However, concerns were raised about the plan to serve alcohol until 10pm and a bid to extend the serving area to the war memorial outside the cafe.

East Lothian Council’s licensing board was asked by its licensing standards officer to restrict the serving times to 8pm.

The board was told: “Town centres in general can be volatile situations and that can be the situation in relation to Tranent.

“The 8pm request is there to protect the business and his customers from volatile situations that we have seen occur in the past.”

However, Mr Thomson, who has invested in transforming the building with a cafe, Post Office and convenience store and plans for flats, a soft play area and community hall ongoing, said operating a “well-managed” eaterie would deter any potential trouble makers.

And he pointed to the decline of pubs in the area as creating a need for a new evening spot.

He told the licensing board meeting: “I am aware it is a prominent site and will need to be well managed.

“When we first opened our [former] shop, it was common to see lots of people coming out of the pubs at 10pm; now you hardly see anyone.

“The Tranent night scene has collapsed.”

Mr Thomson and his wife Susan ran the Post Office on Tranent High Street for a number of years before investing in the derelict Co-op building and moving the expanded business in there.

The new shop and Post Office are thriving and the cafe is due to open this weekend, initially serving coffee and cakes between 9am and 3pm.

However, it is hoped that, as it grows in popularity, the cafe will expand and, from next year, will serve alcohol.

Mr Thomson told the Courier that the intention was never to fill the square with tables up to the pavement.

He said: “Our intention has always been just to allow us to add a few extra tables when it is very busy in the future.”

Speaking to the licensing board last month, Mr Thomson urged them to grant him a licence which will, in the future, allow him to serve alcohol to customers until 10pm, telling them it would only be served with food through a table service.

Concern about attracting youths to the area and potential trouble was dispelled by Councillor Lachlan Bruce, who said that his memories of his “misspent youth” in Tranent were that young people gathered outside the building because it was not used and no one was there.

He said: “They went because it was dead.

“It could be that having the space used will put them off.”

The board granted an alcohol licence until 10pm but it restricted plans to put tables outside to an area covered with the cafe’s canopy rather than further into the ‘war memorial triangle’.