‘Don’t tarnish the town I love so passionately’. That was the plea from club boss Basil Newby as licensees spoke out against a police application to ban alcohol sales after 3am.
Mr Newby’s Funny Girls empire has five premises within the proposed EMRO (Early Morning Restriction Order) zone, including The Flamingo which has the town’s latest licence until 5am.
He told Blackpool Council’s licensing committee: “We will close if the EMRO goes ahead because we can’t sustain our company without The Flamingo and the Flamingo is a late night venue – it’s a nightclub.”
He added: “The EMRO will send out the wrong message about this town that I love so passionately.”
His solicitor John Gaunt branded the bid for an EMRO, which the police say is needed to combat violence on the streets, disproportionate and said a better approach would be “targeted enforcement.”
Mr Gaunt said while the 132 violent incidents, which according to police figures happened in the EMRO zone between 3am and 6am last year, were of concern they should be viewed in context.
He said: “More than 300,000 people went through my client’s premises last year, and 150,000 through Sanuk.
“These two businesses between them have near enough 500,000 people through the doors in the course of a year.
“132 violent incidents is 132 too many, but against the number of people who are in the night time economy on an annual basis, this is a very small fraction of people who are affected.”
The others, he said, were enjoying a “responsible night out” and contributing to Blackpool’s economy.
Mr Gaunt added: “I suggest the way forward is targeted enforcement, for example using the premises review system.
“If premises are serving drunks, they should be brought to account, and if people are drunk they should be dealt with forcefully.”
Blackpool Pubwatch also put forward an alternative action plan. Chairman Craig Southall said measures such as joining the ‘Best Bar None’ accreditation system should be considered.
He added the licensed trade wanted to work closely with the Blackpool Business Improvement District on initiatives such as getting CCTV in the town operating again.
He said: “We are the UK’s best holiday destination and when people are on holiday they do stay out later, let their kids stay out later, and they want to let their hair down.
“That’s what Blackpool is and it is our job that we give these people a great time and they go away and want to come back again.”
Day three of the hearing also heard evidence from the council’s licensing enforcement manager Mark Marshall.
He said he already worked in close partnership with the town’s licensees, and Blackpool had been at the forefront of many licensing initiatives.
But despite this, he believed an EMRO was the best way forward.
Mr Marshall said the review system was used, and since 2005 there had been 125 applications to review licences.
But he regularly saw people “slumped in the street” in the early hours of the morning, due to “excessive alcohol and exhaustion”.
He said: “People seem to be picking up the pieces of a lot of issues taking place in the early hours of the morning.”
Blackpool Police have applied for the EMRO to combat booze-fuelled disorder and violence.
Police officers, hoteliers, town centre workers and health chiefs are among those who gave evidence during the first two days of the hearing about the impact of later opening hours on the town.
The hearing continues today.
TV show blamed for making resort clubland a ‘scapegoat’
Bar and hotel owners in the resort said last year’s controversial TV show 999: What’s Your Emergency had left Blackpool’s image in the gutter – and an EMRO would only make matters worse.
Claire Smith, president of Stay Blackpool, said: “We represent 120 hotel and guest house owners and an overwhelming majority of them voted against the EMRO being introduced.
“By introducing an EMRO are we going to be creating more problems we can’t foresee? Will we just be shifting the problem?
“I would suggest there are more options available.
“The problems we have during the day are, in my mind, the worst problems and by introducing an EMRO it is not going to affect that.”
Club owner Peter Bowden presented a catalogue of crime figures at yesterday’s hearing that backed up Ms Smith’s argument and showed violent crimes in the town centre have peaked at around 3pm in recent years.
In 2011 and 2012, he claimed that between 3am to 4am – when the EMRO would come into force – was the quietest hour of the day for violent crimes. He quoted eight crimes in 2011 and 13 in 2012.
Mr Bowden, who owns Club Sanuk, on the Promenade, added: “When you look at the last three years, the problems are not at 3am – they are at 3pm.
“But in the years before 2005 (when 24-hour drinking laws were introduced) the closing down times had very high levels of violent crime.
“The 999 programme cost me 13,000 visitors in 2012 and 50,000 last year.
“That programme has done more damage to Blackpool than you can imagine and the EMRO area has become the scapegoat.”
Dave Daly, who runs the Castle Hotel, on Central Drive, said: “There are about 4,000 jobs in the night-time economy and more than 80 per cent are held by 18 to 25-year-olds.
“These are jobs we can ill afford to lose.
“The EMRO would cost approximately 100 jobs.
“We expect to be under the cosh from police but we did not expect the Taser that is the EMRO.”