Councillors are to gather evidence to see if there is a case for cutting late night drink hours in Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s Licensing Committee discussed the issue of introducing an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) at a meeting yesterday.
We want to make sure we consider everything before we come to any decisionsCouncillor Brenda Loynes
It followed a motion for an order which could force pubs and bars to stop selling alcohol at 2am instead of 4am, as some do.
Committee members plan to collect evidence from a range of sources, including the police and licensees to see if there is a case for an EMRO.
They are also to approach the police to join them on a night in Hartlepool town centre to see the issues for themselves, and the invite would be extended to all 33 members of the council.
Chairman of the licensing committee, Councillor Brenda Loynes, said: “Although someone can show us figures, I’m a great believer in seeing with my own eyes.”
Coun Loynes added: “It sounds so simple (to introduce an EMRO), but it’s not that easy and you have to follow procedures.
“We want to make sure we consider everything before we come to any decisions.”
Licensing manager Ian Harrison warned the council could be faced with a £100,000 legal bill if it decided to introduce an EMRO and was challenged in a judicial review.
He added premises can close earlier if they chose to.
He said: “The 4am licenses currently in existence were applied for voluntarily by licensees who, for whatever reasons, believed it was good business sense for them to do so.
“All licensees can close earlier than their licensed hours and they do not need permission from the council or anyone else to do so.”
Mr Harrison said licensees can alter their hours for £89.
He said the council would need to show crime and disorder could be linked to the supply of alcohol between 2am and 4am for an EMRO to be introduced, and that no other measures could work.
Mr Harrison added: “The problem occurs where crime and disorder happens in the street. That’s what an EMRO is for, when you can’t pin it down to a particular premises, it’s just a consequence of there being a number of premises that are contributing to the problem.”
Coun Paul Beck said the problem went wider than just the town centre saying there were problems with young people drinking in public places. Coun Allan Barclay said: “It looks like nothing’s changed and that crime’s gone down. For us to prove it, surely we have to check it out for ourselves.”
An update is due to go to the committee again in the summer. The full council will make a final decision later.