BLACKPOOL’S clubs and pubs could be ordered to close early in a bid to cut late night violence.
Blackpool Council is looking at imposing a blanket 3am closing time across town centre nightspots from next April – going back on the 2005 bid to introduce a 24-hour “cafe
culture” in the UK.
Currently the latest licence allows alcohol to flow until 5am.
Police chiefs say allowing venues to stay open until the early hours of the morning is stretching their resources.
But club owners today warned earlier closing times would put “the final nail in the coffin” of the resort’s night time economy.
Figures show between April and September this year, 34 per cent of all violent crime in central Blackpool, amounting to 276 crimes, was committed between 11pm and 8am.
There are currently 57 pubs and clubs in Blackpool licensed to open beyond midnight.
Among them are The Flamingo on Dickson Road which can serve booze until 5am, while nightspots including Sanuk on the Promenade, the Tache on Corporation Street and Che Bar on Talbot Square can serve until 4am.
Their licences allow them to remain open up to another hour while customers disperse.
New Government legislation came into force last week designed to reign in licensing changes implemented by the previous Labour government in 2005, which ushered in 24-hour drinking.
One option for councils is the introduction of an early morning restriction order (EMRO) to limit opening hours.
Chief Insp Ian Mills, of Blackpool Police, told the council’s licensing committee people now tended to drink at home, buying cheaper supermarket alcohol before heading out to bars and clubs at around midnight.
He added: “Young people are drinking from home earlier on where it is easier to buy from supermarkets.
“They are then coming out at 12am or 1am whereas before it was 9pm.
“Currently we have premises which are open until between 3am and 6am, and after that people are going into the take-aways.
“We are not seeing the drop-off in calls to the police which we used to see between 3am and 6am.
“This is a concern around resourcing for ourselves and for the local authority.
“The amount of resources we put into this area potentially stops other people in other areas of Blackpool getting the best service because it is draining our resources.”
Coun John Jones told the meeting: “We want a safe night time economy, one where we are supporting the businesses but we want businesses which are responsible.
“We don’t want to force a position where venues feel they have to open later and later.
“We also have a responsibility to the wider town. If the late opening times are stretching the police and ambulance resources, we have a responsibility to do something about that.
“I think we should grasp the nettle and say nowhere can open after 3am.”
But club owners warned against turning the clock back.
Peter Bowden, owner of Sanuk, told The Gazette: “It would be a disaster for us if the council decided to restrict the opening hours because there is no differentation now between pubs and clubs.
“If they were going to do this, then they should impose a condition whereby if pubs want to open after midnight they have to have a door charge, even before midnight.
“This works in other towns and means venues have to choose whether to be a pub or a club.”
Flamingo owner Basil Newby warned the resort would lose trade to destinations such as Manchester if it reduced licensing hours.
He said: “Blackpool is a holiday resort and it’s supposed to be like Las Vegas. We shouldn’t be thinking about closing earlier than places like Manchester.
“It would be horrendous for Blackpool and would put the final nail into the coffin of our night time economy.”
Gary Hunt, chief operating officer of the Brook Group which owns Che Bar, said they believed a 4am licence was the most appropriate.
He added: “What we would suggest though is local authorities should carry out a consultation with the major operators in the town to show a partnership ethos which Blackpool desperately needs.
“The current economic climate is without question causing financial difficulties for operators and a working partnership between ourselves and the local authorities would help with choosing the right promotions and marketing strategies.
“I get the feeling sometimes Blackpool’s nightlife is a dirty word for some councillors when it is a fact the night time economy is a significant part of Blackpool’s commerce.”
Robert Wynne, who owns The Tache, said: “I don’t think pubs and clubs are making any more money than they were but they are having to open later to do it, because the culture is that people go out later.”
The new legislation also gives councils the option of imposing late night levies on venues wishing to serve alcohol past midnight.
These would range from £299 to £4,400 depending on the rateable value of the property.
Publicans told The Gazette last week, the levies would be another blow for already struggling businesses.