Hoteliers in Blackpool have raised concerns after they were approached by police officers asking their views on controversial plans to ban the sale of alcohol in the town centre after 3am.
Hotel owners say they were approached by officers at their premises, asking for their views on the Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) proposals, the formal consultation on which ended yesterday.
And Coun Sarah Riding, who represents Talbot on Blackpool Council, said it was “strange” the police were questioning residents during the consultation.
Blackpool Council has been consulting on proposals to introduce an EMRO, which would ban boozing after 3am, on 14 town centre streets.
Charlie Docherty of the Astoria hotel on Hull Road said he was approached by the officers earlier this month who asked what he thought of the EMRO.
Mr Docherty, who also chairs the Central Holiday Area PACT, said: “It was the police’s job to report to the council on crime stats. They have had their say at two PACT meetings in Talbot ward, but the police are not the consulting body, they should not be doing this.
“I am worried people will feel intimidated by talking to police, and will not speak their true feelings about the EMRO.”
Gerrard Walsh, owner of Tutor Rose Hotel on Coronation Street, said: “I think this is a disgrace, especially when they are taking two bobbies off the beat to canvass when the police have had their public platform.”
Paul Burkhill, of the Aspire Hotel on Albert Road, said he told the visiting officers the EMRO wouldn’t affect him, as he catered for couples and families.
He said: “They were asking if we were for or against the EMRO.”
But Chief Supt Richard Debicki, of Blackpool Police, said: “We have taken legal advice about the EMRO from the outset, and our advice is that it is entirely appropriate for us to approach people in order to obtain their views about the EMRO.
“A record is kept of all people spoken to. It would be odd if we did not ask people about the impact of alcohol for them as residents and businesses in Blackpool, as part of this process, and it’s important the licensing committee have the fullest picture possible upon which to base their decisions. I have discussed this with Councillor Riding and she understands and accepts this position completely.”
Coun Riding told The Gazette she had sought clarity on the police’s actions and said she had urged people to go through the council’s official consultation website.
She said: “We always reassure people that this process is as transparent as possible, and it is strange that something like this is being done.
“The police have accepted they should not have been sending officers out in that respect. They are legally entitled to knock on doors and ask people what they think of the plans, but I think there was poor communication in this instance.
“I believe it has all been sorted now.”
The official consultation on the EMRO proposal, which has been branded an “ASBO on Blackpool” and a “disaster” for the town by licensing bosses and tourism and business leaders, finished on Thursday. A final decision is due in September.
Booze ban ‘would be a disaster for town’
Licensed trade bosses have aired their concerns over the EMRO following The Gazette’s special report yesterday.
A spokesman for the Walkabout bar, Blackpool, said: “In our opinion, the EMRO is a terrible idea and will be a disaster for Blackpool.
“Even though Walkabout does not open beyond 3am and so in the short term it will not negatively affect us, and may even be a benefit, we are strongly opposed to it as in the long run it will kill the whole town.”
Paul Horridge, Director, of Toast, in St Annes, said: “The council wants to improve the night time economy and with two businesses local to the area Toast Blackpool and The Loft St Annes, an EMRO if it did have the desired effect would no doubt improve business pre-midnight for Toast Blackpool and post 3am for The Loft St Annes which closes at 4.30am.
“However, such is not proved and Blackpool should not be a guinea pig for such as it’s a tourist destination.”
Irene McGarvie, DJ at Flamingo, said: “Questions must be asked of the police and why they have not issued any town centre banning orders?
“According to their own figures 78 per cent of the people arrested have FY postcodes, the police have the power to stop these troublemakers and keep them out of the town centre, they also have the power to send troublemakers home during the night but decline to do anything.”
Rob Bagshaw, DJ, ITP Leisure, said: “I am totally against the EMRO, I think it is just another way for the police to make cuts as they have already done with town centre CCTV – if crime is so bad why haven’t they got anyone watching cameras anymore?”
Basil Newby, of Flamingos, said: “The EMRO would in reality mean there will be no nightclubs left in the town. The two largest ones being myself at Flamingos and Sanuk, couldn’t possibly survive only being open until 3am – why would anybody come and pay to go into a nightclub when they can be in the bars until 3am?”
We have offered excellent alternatives to the police and the council which they have declined.