Calling time on 24-hour boozing

A man drinking a pint of beer
A man drinking a pint of beer

TIME could soon be called on 24-hour drinking in Hartlepool after new plans were unveiled by licensing chiefs.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s licensing committee has officially proposed making an Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Order which will bring an end to round-the-clock boozing in town.

The EMRO, as it is known, will be subject to a lengthy consultation process in the new year, but if it is approved then bars and clubs would be prevented from selling booze between 2am and 6am from August 13, next year.

It would apply on every day of the year except New Year’s Day within the town centre area of Hartlepool and would be in place indefinitely.

It comes after a request from health and police chiefs to the licensing committee.

Committee members were happy that there is enough evidence of violence in the night time economy and the knock-on effect to emergency services in town for an EMRO to be proposed.

During a two-month period this summer there were 40 incidents of violent disorder alone and police chiefs say the situation is “unsustainable”.

The 2004 Licensing Act removed prescribed licensing hours and effectively permitted 24-hour drinking in a bid to cut down on alcohol-related crime and disorder caused by everyone leaving the clubs and bars at the same time.

The idea was that longer hours would mean less trouble but the police say the move has not worked and is stretching the resources of emergency services later into the night.

Since 2004, 20 late licences to sell booze beyond 2am have been granted, although that has since reduced to 13.

Licensing chiefs say since then 40 per cent of licenced premises in the centre of Hartlepool have closed down including the Wesley, Jax, 42nd Street, Coast, Shades and the Corner House.

Only two have opened, Showroom and Diablos and officials say pubs and clubs have been “greatly affected” by people staying at home to drink before arriving in town much later.

Ian Harrison, principal trading standards and licensing officer with Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “Since the implementation of the Act alcohol related crime and disorder has continued at a significant level and, as such, the previous Government began to soften its stance – recognising through it’s statutory guidance that longer hours were not, necessarily, an answer to all problems and allowing licensing authorities more discretion in their approach to the management of licensed premises in their area.”

That change was embraced and it became a council policy that new licences will not be issued to permit trading after 2am, but that does not affect licences already in existence.

Therefore the authorities are now looking to use new legislation called the EMRO to tackle the problem.

Mr Harrison added: “Cleveland Police have stated in their letter that current policing methods required to effectively manage the night time economy are unsustainable.

“The Director of Public Health has stated that a relaxation in licensing hours has led to unacceptable levels of alcohol related Accident & Emergency admissions.”

Mr Harrison said the licensing committee was not adopting the EMRO or recommending it at this stage, their role was to propose it.

He said the only way for licences to be brought back to 2am without an EMRO is for each establishment to be called in for an independent review, if there is sufficient evidence.

The EMRO will need the approval of full council before it can be implemented.