Town hall bosses defiant after town centre bar’s hours are slashed

'Serve as warning' (Below) Coun Gillian Campbell
'Serve as warning' (Below) Coun Gillian Campbell
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A popular bar in the heart of Blackpool’s main shopping area has seen its hours slashed dramatically as council chiefs bid to clean up the resort’s image.

Underbar, on Bank Hey Street, was rapped by licensing bosses and told it cannot now sell booze until 5pm –
seven hours later than previously.

Coun Gillian Campbell

Coun Gillian Campbell

Today, town hall bosses hailed the decision as a victory in their fight to cut down on disorder and stop visitors from being put off during the daytime.

And they insisted talks are planned with the operators of the Tower Lounge, also on Bank Hey Street, over its future come the end of the tourist season after Blackpool Council chief executive Neil Jack told The Gazette he wanted it to be closed down.

Underbar, which only opens on a Friday and Saturday, saw its licence reviewed after it drew complaints from local businesses and the police.

Mark Marshall, Blackpool Council’s licensing and health and safety manager, told a licensing committee meeting: “A lot of the problem was nuisance from music and promotions.

“The hours were reduced until 5pm which really for us is the first part of regaining the town centre for families and visitors.

“It is a great start for us to address the problems at Underbar.”

Complaints against the bar included health and safety issues and irresponsible trading.

But venue bosses said they were shocked by the decision, which could see people lose their jobs, and have been working hard to fit in with the council’s vision for the area.

Steve Lawrence, Underbar’s designated premises supervisor, said: “I am hurt by the council’s decision.

“I have always known we have been in a very sensitive area.

“We manage our business with the utmost respect for where we are.

“I look forward to working closely with the council on their future plans for Bank Hey Street.

“I have 21 days to appeal and will wait until I have all the information before making any decisions.”

The bar will continue to trade as normal in the meantime.

Coun Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council cabinet member with responsibility for public protection, said: “This should serve as a warning to all business that they should be good neighbours and try not to negatively impact others.

“We hope the bar, meanwhile, will work to rectify the issues.”

Blackpool Council is working on a licensing plan it hopes will stop rowdy stag and hen parties from putting off visitors to the town’s shops during the daytime.

Restrictions imposed on Underbar just leave council-owned Tower Lounge as the main draw for day-time drinkers in the Banke Hey Street area.

Blackpool Council and Merlin, which operates the Tower Lounge on behalf of the Council, are in discussions over potential future uses for the site, which looks set to close in its current form by the end of the year.

During the meeting, Mr Marshall said: “By November this year, Tower Lounge will have to change drastically. It is limited in terms of its life span.”

The Tower Lounge is allowed to still operate between ? and ? days a week as it has not fallen foul of licensing chiefs.

The Bank Hey Street entrance to the Tower Lounge is closed until 5pm so not to impact on shoppers, a council spokesman said.

Blackpool Council bought the Tower complex in March 2010 with Merlin operating the attractions.

It said it could not reveal the slice of profits it receives from Merlin due to “commercially sensitive” reasons.

Coun Graham Cain, Blackpool Council cabinet member for leisure and tourism, said: “As the chief executive has said previously, while The Blackpool Tower lounge remains popular it does not fit in with the family friendly ethos we wish to promote both at The Blackpool Tower and in Blackpool more widely.

“As a result, and although there are no licensing enforcement concerns at the premises, we are in discussions with Merlin about the future of the building at the end of the current season.”

No-one from Merlin was available for comment.

Mixed views over pub

Shoppers The Gazette spoke to over the weekend had mixed views on the impact day-time drinkers – particularly stag and hen parties - have on the area.

Eileen Poole, 75, of Blackpool, said: “Cutting bars’ hours down could be the answer. Years ago pubs weren’t open all day.

“But where would the drinkers go then? You can’t stop them coming.”

Billy McCarron, 55, of Whitehaven, Cumbria, was visiting the resort with his two young children.

He said: “I do think all the stag and hen parties put off families - it makes the place dirty and scruffy.

“The place isn’t what it was but it doesn’t stop us coming.

“We come about once a year and go to places like the Pleasure Beach and the Tower.”

Another shopper, who has lived in Blackpool for 35 years, said she welcomed efforts to limit the hours bars can open in the town centre.

But she added: “These people who come drinking are just normal people having a good time. I don’t mind that.

“But I think these stag and hen parties are the reason you don’t get so many families here these days. It doesn’t matter when they come in the evening though because the shops aren’t open.”