Blackpool’s tourism boss has performed an apparent major U-turn after saying the town does not want stag and hen parties – and advised they should go to Manchester or Liverpool instead.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and leisure, said in a radio interview that Blackpool does not want “kiss me quick, stag and hens” and they should “go somewhere else.”
His comments sparked fury among tourism firms across the town, with one demanding he stand down over the comments.
But today, in an interview with The Gazette, Coun Cain insisted he was “generalising” and only wanted to rid Blackpool of the yob element who behave in a lewd and drunken way, putting off other visitors.
In the interview broadcast on Radio Wave, he initially said: “We are a family resort and we don’t want kiss me quick, stag and hens, please go somewhere else,” adding: “There is more to offer stags and hens in cities like Manchester and Liverpool than in this wonderful town of Blackpool.”
He was speaking after a bid by TV reality show Geordie Shore to come to Blackpool was rebuffed.
Coun Cain said the programme was “off message” and not appropriate to promote Blackpool as family-friendly following the fall out from Channel 4 documentary 999: What’s Your Emergency.
But when questioned by The Gazette, the tourism boss softened his position, saying: “We don’t want to put a gate across the end of the M55 and turn people away. That’s not what I meant.
“We welcome any group into Blackpool but don’t want the extreme people who behave in that lewd and offensive way which in the past has given us a reputation.
“I was generalising, I did not go into detail. We welcome many large organised parties here who stay in the hotels, enjoy a night out and a show and that is not a problem, but there are some whose behaviour puts a strain on our emergency services which we don’t want.”
Despite the apparent climb down, his comments have sparked concern.
Dave Daly (inset), licensee at The Castle Hotel on Central Drive, and chairman of North West Licensees Unite, said: “Stag and hen parties have been coming here for 75 years.
“They bring between 5,000 and 10,000 people here every weekend and even more at the height of the tourist season. Only a small minority of them cause trouble and if licensees don’t do their job properly the council has the power to revoke their licence.”
Mr Daly said there was room for both stag and hen revellers and families in Blackpool but that ‘bad planning’ over the years meant the council had failed to zone them into different parts of the resort.
“We’ve already lost conferences to Manchester and Liverpool and now Coun Cain is suggesting we should lose our entertainment too. He should consider his position and resign,” he added.
Callum McDonald from Impact Leisure, which runs activities for families and single sex groups at its base at Whyndyke Farm, said: “We have thousands of stags visit our venue every summer and no trouble at all. They are here to have a good time and take part in a range of activities.
“Their reputation has been tarred unfairly and not all are just here to go out on the lash.”
Resort entertainer Joey Blower said: “We cannot survive on six weeks family holidays a year.
“I say to the stag and hens don’t go to Manchester and Liverpool come to Blackpool we have so much more to offer.
“I think however, we could look at restructuring the way we look at the town, zoning could be a way forward.”
Claire Smith, of Stay Blackpool, said: “Coun Cain said we do not want stags and hens, we want them to go elsewhere and that’s not quite right.
“Yes, we want Blackpool to be a family resort and a lot of time, effort and money has been spent cleaning it up and making sure there’s nothing offensive on view on the Prom but it is wrong to say we don’t want stags and hens.
“A lot of businesses in the town rely on that trade and for it to go elsewhere would hit the economy.”
Mick Grewcock, from Bispham’s Burbage Lodge Holiday Group, said: “I agree with Coun Cain that it would be better to not have the stag and hens but how on earth could you implement that?
“Blackpool has gone down that route and at this late stage it would be difficult to change. If you did, a lot of bars and clubs would go under. I think the zoning idea might work to some extent.
“We are more family orientated and we are full, so the approach of attracting families can work if you get the offer right. I think Blackpool is becoming more family orientated but it would not be easy to manage that transition.”
Samantha Harper, owner of Drummers House of Jokes on Central Drive said: “I’ve always said the town’s big enough to hold everybody, it should have family sections and a stag and hens section.
“June is quiet nowadays so we need the stags and hens keep us busy, kids don’t break up until July. There’s enough room for everyone.”
Mitesh Chauhan of the We’ve Got It gift shop on the Promenade, said: “There are families about during the day but we open until 9pm and get a lot of our custom late at night from stag and hen parties so it would really affect our trade.”
Joe Lever, manager of Millie’s Cookies in the Houndshill Shopping Centre, said: “We get a lot of people from stag and hen parties, as well as families buying cookies from us.
“If fewer people are coming to Blackpool we would need them to be replaced by more families who would come to our shop.
“Re-marketing Blackpool and changing that sort of image would be easier said than done however and might take a while. I worry our business might suffer during that period of transition.”
Blackpool Council’s Tory leader Tony Williams said: “At the moment Blackpool is not doing very well, despite what Coun Cain would have us believe. If people think he should resign he should listen.
“Coun Cain should really think things out before he opens his mouth. He is completely out of touch and he’s not doing this town any favours, or any good at all.”
‘We can’t let resort become a shanty town’
Coun Cain said pubs and clubs that allow people to come into their establishments and carry on boozing, when they are clearly the worse for wear, were off message with ongoing improvements in the resort.
“We are the capital of entertainment and we are not here to put people out of business, but we do not want Blackpool to be a shanty town,” he said.
“We have invested heavily to improve our image and Blackpool is back as a family resort. We have brought back the summer season after 10 years with Mamma Mia! and we don’t want that spoiling. Illuminasia came here because they knew Blackpool was on the way up.
“I say (to local businesses) get on the journey with us: If you improve your quality you can improve your profits.”
On the issue of better town planning to separate adult-orientated and family entertainment, Coun Cain said: “The bigger cites have that option of zoning. We cannot. The infrastructure in this town does not enable us to do that.
“Manchester has its quarters and they could zone off areas for nightclubs and parties away from family areas.
“We have all different types of entertainment venues close together.”