Consultation set to launch

Darab Rezai outside of Marco Polo
Darab Rezai outside of Marco Polo

A BUSINESSMEN has urged council bosses to look at the “big picture” before restricting the hours alcohol can be sold in pubs and clubs in the town centre.

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.

The issue was discussed yesterday at meetings of the South and Central and North and Coastal Neighbourhood Forums, ahead of a 42-day consultation due to launch on February 14.

Darab Rezai, who runs a number of businesses including restaurants and takeaways, said takeaways are not only used by revellers but also people that work late shifts and he suggested closing an hour early this year and then bringing it to 2am next year.

Mr Rezai said: “If we bring it back to 2am we would lose the money the town needs from takeaways, taxi drivers and people choosing to drink outside of town where there are longer hours. We need to look at the bigger picture.”

Ian Harrison, the council’s principal trading standards and licensing officer, made a presentation on the proposed town centre EMRO.

It followed the recent decision of the council’s Licensing Committee to propose the Order following representations from Cleveland Police and the town’s Director of Public Health.

Officials say crime and disorder continues to be a “significant issue”, with an average of 20 violent incidents in the town centre area each month.

Mr Harrison said: “This is not a problem unique to Hartlepool, it is a national issue.

“This is an opportunity for us to say you must stop selling alcohol at a certain time. I must point out that it does not require premises to close, just to stop selling alcohol at a certain time.”

He said it was likely takeaways would close earlier because there wouldn’t be people hanging around until the early hours if the bars close.

Mr Harrison said he was keen to hear from as many people as possible about whether they think the plans are a good or bad idea.

Addressing Mr Rezai, Mr Harrison added: “I welcome everybody’s views and all of those views will be taken into account.”

Hartlepool currently has 13 premises that are licensed to serve alcohol beyond 2am and licensing chiefs say unless there are specific problems associated with particular premises the council as the licensing authority has no power to reduce their operating hours.

But if adopted an EMRO 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 backed it would be in place seven days a week, covering the town centre area, from August 13, this year.

People wanting to respond to the consultation need to fill out a prescribed form, which will be available on the council website closer to the consultation launch.

Once the consultation finishes on March 28, there will be another Licensing meeting to consider the responses before a report goes before full council.