Licensees delighted

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PUB and club bosses say they are delighted with the decision but taxi drivers in favour of a return to 2am closures have expressed concerns.

Linda Baker, who has run The Loft, in Church Street, for the past two years, said: “I am over the moon.

“This will help prevent the loss of jobs and secure the business.”

The Loft employs seven members of staff and Ms Baker said 80 per cent of their business is between the hours of 2am and 4am on a Friday and Saturday.

She added: “If it went ahead we would probably have been another bar in the town to have closed.”

Darab Rezai is chairman of Hartlepool Licensees Association (HLA) and owner of Zeus nightclub, in the town’s Whitby Street.

The 56-year-old raised fears the EMRO would result in revellers socialising outside of Hartlepool or holding large scale parties in houses on estates in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Rezai said HLA members were against the 2am closure and put the closure of 40 per cent of licensed premises in recent years down to cheap alcohol in supermarkets and said night time violence was not as bad as the mid-1980s when he first moved to town.

Mr Rezai added: “I believe the EMRO would put an extra strain on the licensed premises and I don’t believe that it would encourage people to come out any earlier.”

Representatives from national pub chains including Marston’s and Punch Taverns questioned the police’s evidence and said between 2004 and 2013 there had been a 55 per cent drop in crime within the night time economy area and said initiatives like Drink Banning Orders and Directions to Leave were working.

They said the proposals were “disproportionate and inappropriate”.

Nigel Connor, from JD Wetherspoon, said: “The EMRO is described as a last resort and I would argue Hartlepool is a long way from that.”

But town taxi driver John Osborne, 45, said: “I would much rather go back to 2am closures across the board.

“The late drinking was supposed to stagger people leaving the bars but it hasn’t worked like that.

“I don’t like working until 4am or 5am.”