Blackpool must rein in licensing hours if it is to restore its reputation as a safe place to live in and visit, the first day of a hearing into proposals to ban the sale of booze after 3am heard.
The resort’s police chiefs presented the council’s licensing committee with 102 statements of what they describe as “compelling evidence” the town must call time on late-night drinking.
Blackpool Police want the council to introduce an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) which would prevent alcohol being served between 3am and 6am in part of the town centre.
At the moment almost everyone arrested – 98 per cent – between those hours in that part of town is drunk, according to police figures.
Club and pub bosses, together with many leading figures in Blackpool’s tourist trade, are opposed to the order which they say would damage tourism, cost jobs and harm their businesses.
Philip Kolvin, QC, representing the police, said there were witness statements “amounting to first hand accounts of the fallout” from the town’s alcohol economy.
He said: “It represents a cold, sobering and deeply concerning testament from Blackpool people which compels recognition firstly, and a regulatory response secondly.
“We can see these insidious effects as they seep into impact on the daily lives of Blackpool people as they go about their daily business.”
The committee was given statistics compiled by the police, which show between 3am and 6am, the EMRO area accounts for 13 per cent of all violent crime in Lancashire, and 43 per cent of all violent crime in the Western Division policing area which includes Blackpool.
While violent crime as a whole is decreasing in Blackpool, in the EMRO area it has increased by 267 per cent between 2005, when drinking hours were relaxed, and 2012.
However, Mr Kolvin did not put forward absolute figures for the number of crimes.
Pub and club owners have long argued the statistics are flawed and do not account for the fact Blackpool’s biggest nightclub The Syndicate – formerly located outside the EMRO zone – has closed down and therefore the area is now busier.
They also say the EMRO is more to do with police managing their over-stretched resources – in face of budget cuts – rather than tackling real issues with alcohol abuse.
The areas currently proposed as part of the EMRO area are Queen Street and Queen Square, Springfield Road, Promenade between New Bonny Street and Banks Street, Bank Hey Street, Market Street, Dickson Road, Talbot Road, West Street, Corporation Street, Abingdon Street, New Bonny Street and The Strand.
Mr Kolvin said of the 1,377 licensed premises in Blackpool, the EMRO would only limit the activities of about 22 of them, and of those, none would have their licence pegged back for more than two hours.
Mr Kolvin told councillors: “The EMRO will lead to some loss of business, but this is no death knell.
“If a bell is tolling, it is to tell premises to reconsider their business model.”
FOR THE FULL STORY OF DAY ONE FROM THE EMRO HEARING, SEE TUESDAY’S GAZETTE