Police chief's fears over drink laws

NIGHTCLUBS across Suffolk could soon pull out of safer drinking police initiatives because of a drop in trade brought on by changes in drinking laws, Suffolk's top policeman has warned.

By Danielle Nuttall

NIGHTCLUBS across Suffolk could soon pull out of safer drinking police initiatives because of a drop in trade brought on by changes in drinking laws, Suffolk's top policeman has warned.

Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter said the county's nightclubs were beginning to see a dip in custom as partygoers opted to remain in their local pubs due to extended drinking hours.

This loss of trade, he warned, could put “commercial pressure” on these outlets to end their co-operation with schemes such as Nightsafe, which require an agreement not to launch cheap drinks promotions of the sort associated with binge drinking.


You may also want to watch:


He also warned door staff at these venues could come under pressure to relax entry requirements to boost custom.

Mr McWhirter's comments came in a report about the impact of the new licensing arrangements to Suffolk Police Authority.

Most Read

The new legislation, introduced in October, allowed outlets licensed to sell alcohol to apply to local authorities to extend their drinking hours up to 24-hours.

Of the 3,100 licensed premises in Suffolk, between 70% and 90% were granted significantly longer drinking hours, the report reveals.

But Mr McWhirter said there had been no significant increase or decrease in incidents as a result of the new laws, although any that did take place occurred over a longer period - between midnight and 4am instead of midnight and 2am as previously.

Many fast food outlets failed to apply for extended licences when the legislation was first introduced which meant they had to close earlier than pubs. This resulted in a reduction of crime and disorder at these secondary hotspots.

But Mr McWhirter said these fast food outlets were now starting to apply for longer hours and he warned if they were successful, it was possible alcohol-related crime and disorder could increase at these venues as revellers hung around.

Mr McWhirter said: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that nightclubs are starting to see a drop in trade as customers choose to remain in their local pubs.

“Due to the higher overheads that clubs face, this loss of trade is expected to put commercial pressure on the clubs to reduce or stop their co-operation with schemes such as Nightsafe, which require a 'no drinks promotions' policy. In addition, door staff at the clubs may come under pressure to relax entry requirements to boost custom.”

He added: “If fast food outlets are successful in obtaining late opening licences, there is a distinct possibility of an increase in alcohol-related violent crime and disorder at these secondary hotspots as customers fail to disperse quickly.

“There is a potential that ever-increasing numbers of licensed premises apply for extended opening hours due to the increased competition and the growing fear that competitors with late licenses are 'grabbing trade'. This is likely to exacerbate any issues.”

Although fears of a sharp increase in public disorder as a result of so-called '24-hour' drinking have so far been unfounded, the sheer number of people on the streets at closing times has required a greater policing presence.

Mr McWhirter said this had been covered by overtime but that could not be a long-term solution.

Staff at most sector stations are having to work later on Fridays and Saturdays to cover extended opening times, he said, and “cumulative tiredness” had been a problem for some officers.

The report was based on data between January and March this year, which is traditionally a peaceful time because of the weather and the lack of disposable income after Christmas.

It concluded that it was unlikely the current trend would continue and predicted a significant increase in alcohol-related crime and disorder during the summer months.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus