Blackpool Borough Council’s licensing committee has voted unanimously to recommend against the imposition of an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) in parts of the town centre after 3am.
The proposed EMRO would have prevented the sale of alcohol on 14 streets in the town centre between 3am and 6am on every night of the year except New Year’s Eve.
The decision must still be approved by the full council when it next meets on February 28 but it is thought unlikely that their recommendation will be ignored.
The committee’s decision was welcomed by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), which represents operators in the late-night bar and club sector.
ALMR strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: “In the current climate, an EMRO is not sustainable when there are more viable measures on the table to resolve the problem.
“It wouldn’t do anything to resolve the issues of crime and disorder and anti-social behaviour that the police are concerned about.
“The problems we face as a society are about irresponsible consumption – not about irresponsible retailing. We hope the leader of the council and the cabinet take the advice of their specialist committee and don’t slap an Asbo on the town.”
At a four-day hearing before the decision was made, the ALMR and its Blackpool members argued powerfully against the EMRO, calling for a more proportionate response which did not penalise responsible retailers.
The licensing committee recognised the risks of the EMRO, saying that it “did not feel that the EMRO would have a positive effect on violent crime in the EMRO hours or overall”. Instead, it called for the formation of a multi-agency “Night Time Economy Working Group” to report back to the council in three months.
The committee added thatit was “not convinced that ‘turning off the tap’ at 3am, as was the phrase commonly used throughout the hearing, would have a positive impact on the prevention of crime and disorder”.
It continued: “The committee was of the view that there was also a real risk that patrons would ‘hoard’ drink in anticipation of any 3am terminal hour and that this also mitigated the ‘turning off of any tap’ at 3am.
“Whether there was hoarding or an exodus at 3am, the committee was of the view that both scenarios may have a negative impact on the licensing objectives.”
The committee also reported that it was concerned about the potential negative impact of the EMRO on Blackpool as a whole. “Whilst no person could accurately predict the extent of that impact, it was concerning that some investment had been placed on hold and it was likely there would be some negative impact that reached further than those premises trading in the EMRO area.”
Kate continued: “We wholeheartedly agree with the committee that partnership solutions are the best way to take the town forward and we stand ready to play our part in delivering a safer, more attractive Blackpool for all.”
Lancashire Constabulary proposed the introduction of an EMRO which allows the local authorities to restrict sales of alcohol in the whole or a part of their areas for any specified period between midnight and 6am.
The ALMR, represented by solicitors Poppleston Allen and Gerald Gouriet QC of FTB Chambers, made representations to the licensing committee and was closely involved in local opposition to the EMRO.
The decision was also welcomed as “good news” by Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association.
“It is clear that Blackpool’s licensing committee has considered the issues in great detail, and can see the benefits of partnership working, as well as the damage an EMRO would inflict on the local trade.
“Making partnerships work, to tackle any late-night problems, has got to be the right way forward.”
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