Booze plans in spotlight

editorial image

PLANS to restrict the hours alcohol can be sold in pubs and clubs in the town centre of Hartlepool could move a step closer next week - despite major opposition from national pub chains.

Hartlepool Borough Council is 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.

It followed an earlier decision of the licensing committee to propose the EMRO following representations from Cleveland Police and the Director of Public Health who say crime and disorder continues to be a “significant issue”.

But national pub chains including Marston’s, which runs 12 pubs in Hartlepool, and Punch Taverns have objected.

Marston’s submission read: “It is the assertion of Marston’s PLC that there is not the evidence to support the request made by the chief inspector/director of public health for the implementation of an EMRO.”

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers say they are “extremely concerned” about the impact the EMRO would have on licensed premises.

A council report said: “Members may wish to note that since the implementation of the Licensing Act in 2005, approximately 40 per cent of the town centre’s licensed premises have closed.

“There has however, been a number of representations from local licensees who have indicated that the imposition of a 2am hours terminal hour would significantly reduce their trading hours and may have serious consequences for the viability of their businesses.”

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 adopted it would allow the council to prohibit the sale of alcohol from all premises in a defined area within any times between midnight and 6am.

If the plans are eventually agreed by full council the EMRO would be in place seven days a week, covering the town centre area, from August 13, this year.

The licensing committee will meet on Tuesday, May 7, at 10am at the Civic Centre.