CONTROVERSIAL plans to curb the hours pubs and clubs sell booze in the centre of Hartlepool have been thrown out by councillors – to the delight of licensees.
Hartlepool Borough Council was considering proposals for an Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Order (EMRO), which would prohibit the sale of alcohol from 2am-6am and bring an end to the 24-hour drinking in town.
But the council’s licensing committee has rejected the plans over fears that a reduction in opening hours, in the current economic climate, could have “serious consequences” for the viability of businesses.
Hartlepool would have been the first place in the country to adopt an EMRO but licensees say the decision will “safeguard” staff and businesses.
Proposals for the EMRO followed representations from Cleveland Police and Louise Wallace, the director of public health in Hartlepool, who say crime and disorder continues to be a “significant issue”.
But local licensees and representatives from national pub chains including Marston’s, which runs 12 pubs in Hartlepool, and Punch Taverns spoke against the plans at the Civic Centre.
A report said 40 per cent of licensed premises had closed in Hartlepool since the 24-hour legislation was brought in and members were asked to consider the “benefits and burdens” of introducing an EMRO.
Conservative group leader Ray Wells, committee chairman, said: “The licensing committee recognises the significant improvements that have been made to the town centre in terms of reducing violence but will consider the use of every tool made available to it to make Hartlepool’s town centre a safer place to live, work and visit.
“The licensing committee has considered the representations made by all parties and is satisfied that an EMRO could play a role in reducing violence still further but is mindful of the concerns raised by local licensees that a reduction in opening hours, in the current economic climate, could have serious consequences for the viability of their businesses.
“The committee has determined not to recommend the introduction of an EMRO at the current time but intends to revisit the issue next year to establish whether local licensees, and in particular the Hartlepool Licensees Association (HLA), have taken responsibility for continuing the previous improvements.”
Darab Rezai, HLA chairman, said: “We are very pleased with the decision which will help safeguard businesses and jobs in the town centre and night time economy.
“It will also help keep people coming to the town centre at night and not going to other areas for a night out.”
The HLA will be liaising with all pubs and clubs in a bid to get them all to sign up to the ‘Barred from one, Barred from all’ initiative and said the HLA takes a “zero tolerance” approach to violence and disorder.
Mrs Wallace, said: “Hartlepool does have a strong partnership approach to addressing alcohol-related harm and it is pleasing that was recognised by the committee.
“An EMRO is just one part of the ongoing alcohol strategy and we are still committed to ensuring Hartlepool is a safer place to be.”
Hartlepool currently has 13 premises licensed to serve alcohol beyond 2am and licensing chiefs say unless there are specific problems associated with particular premises the council has no power to reduce their operating hours.
If the EMRO had been adopted it would have allowed the council to prohibit the sale of alcohol from all premises in a defined area within any times between midnight and 6am seven days a week, covering the town centre area.