Police chiefs who failed in a bid to close Blackpool’s nightclubs early will be asked to put more bobbies on the streets of the resort after dark.
Councillors have also called for a special task force to be set up after they voted unanimously against introducing an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO).
The controversial order – which would have seen a number of town centre clubs close at 3am and would have been the first of its kind in the UK – was rejected as Blackpool Council’s Licensing Committee deemed it was not appropriate for the resort.
Instead the committee called for more police on the streets at key times and recommended a working party is formed to tackle the issues around late night boozing in the resort.
Pub and club owners – who fought the EMRO amid fears it would cost jobs and businesses – welcomed the move.
And one leading councillor is calling for it to be revealed how much public money has been “wasted” on the process.
Tory leader Coun Tony Williams added: “Just by going ahead with this consultation the town has once again been under the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
“It’s time we stopped washing our dirty linen in public,bringing ourselves down and actually started telling the world Blackpool is still the best fun town in the UK to visit.”
Last week’s four-day hearing painted a bleak picture of the resort as police said they were having to deal with high levels of booze-fuelled crime and disorder.
Health chiefs warned of the impact the problems were having on emergency services, while town centre workers said they faced intimidation as they made their way into work for early morning shifts.
But those against the EMRO argued this was not an accurate reflection and alcohol-related crime was worse at 3pm rather than 3am.
They also said the issue was more to do with police trying to manage stretched resources rather than an out-of-control night-time economy.
The committee’s recommendation against an EMRO must now go to full council on February 28 for ratification.
Council leader Simon Blackburn said the decision was “disappointing”, but added the council would now concentrate on the committee’s recommendations and “focus its efforts on examining other ways” to deal with the issues raised.
He said: “It will be vital the recommendations of the committee are taken seriously and produce tangible early results.
“It is not acceptable to continue to let the problems of late night drinking and violence harm our economy and disrupt the lives of our residents.”
Lancashire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Mark Bates said officers had set out a strong case for the EMRO that “amply demonstrated the real impact of late night excessive drinking has on the quality of life, crime and disorder for residents and visitors.”
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said he believed the evidence for the EMRO was “convincing”.
But Licensing committee chairman Coun Adrian Hutton said: “After careful consideration of all the evidence the committee has voted against the introduction.”
Fellow committee member Coun Tony Lee said afterwards: “We now have to sit down as a committee with the licensed trade and the police and work together to come up with solutions.
“After all, we all want the same thing at the end of the day – which is to ensure we get the best result for Blackpool.”
‘Let’s make alternatives work’
Blackpool’s pub and club owners welcomed the rejection of the EMRO.
And they have pledged to work with the police and council to tackle issues with late night drinking in the town.
Basil Newby, of Funny Girls Ltd, which operates The Flamingo and has Blackpool’s latest licence until 5am, said: “I hope going forward we can work together with the police and the council.
“I know the police have a very difficult job and I know they are having problems with cut-backs but it doesn’t get away from the fact we aren’t policed as much as we should be between 3am and 6am.
“There were a lot of Blackpool people, passionate about this town, who spoke very strongly at the hearing and it came across loud and clear they were worried and wanted to look at alternative measures before an EMRO was considered.”
Blackpool Pubwatch chairman Craig Southall, who put forward alternatives including the launching of a Best Bar None accreditation scheme and working with the Blackpool Improvement District (BID) to source funding for CCTV, said his members were pleased with the decision.
He said: “We are looking forward to actively working in partnership with the authorities to make Blackpool safer and more vibrant.
“The council has shown it does listen.
“We all want safer streets and to reduce the strain on the NHS.”
Dave Daly, North West chairman of Licensees Unite, said: “The people who spoke about this and gave evidence were very sobering but we realise there’s a lot of work to do to build partnerships with the council, police and NHS.
“The big thing we need to address is drunkenness around the town from midnight onwards.”
Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director for the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) which gave evidence at the hearing, said: “In the current climate an EMRO is not sustainable when there are more viable measures on the table to resolve the problem.”
Why the EMRO was rejected
The bid to ban the sale of booze after 3am in Blackpool town centre was shot down on a number of points.
But councillors said they hoped the hearing would act as a “catalyst for change”.
The Licensing Committee, comprising five Labour councillors, two Tories and one Liberal Democrat, said “there were significant levels of violent crime within the town centre and something must be done to address this.”
However they concluded while “positive action was required, this EMRO was not appropriate in the circumstances.”
Instead they recommended:
• To form a Night Time Economy Working Group which would bring together police, licensing, council and tourist organisations, and for it to report back within three months.
• The council will write to the Chief Constable of Lancashire, requesting him “to give urgent consideration to increasing the levels of policing in the night time economy.”
In its written decision, the committee said it “derived limited assistance” from the police statistical evidence and said evidence confirmed the “overwhelming majority of trouble-makers” were local, and the “so-called stag and hens were not the main protagonists”.
The committee feared returning to a situation where all pubs and clubs were closed by 3am might mean “a great number of individuals would be spilling out onto the streets at the same time and this had potential for increased levels of crime, disorder and nuisance.”
The report added: “The committee was of the view there was a real risk patrons would ‘hoard’ drink in anticipation of any 3am terminal hour.”
The committee also said the evidence as a whole confirmed not all the trouble happened between 3am and 6am, and the cause could be linked to the consumption of alcohol before 3am.
It was also concerned an EMRO could hamper investment in the town.