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Police bid to stop new bars and clubs
POLICE are mounting a campaign to stop new bars and clubs opening up in Southampton’s top nightlife districts.
They are targeting Bedford Place, Above Bar Street and Bevois Valley in an attempt to curb soaring levels of violence and criminal damage linked to drink.
Senior officers want the city council to stop giving new alcohol licences in these zones, which they claim are accounting for more than half the alcoholrelated offences in the city’s licensed premises.
The new policy would also attempt to ban extensions of opening hours and other variations of licences.
The force has named and shamed the worst clubs, bars and pubs as part of its case. They were nightclubs Junk, Flares and Ocean & Collins and The Square pub.
But pub and bar operators say the plans go too far and insist licence applications should continue to judged on their own merits.
Earlier this year a study ranked Southampton as the third worst city in the whole of the country for alcohol-related violence. Only Kingston upon Hull, in Yorkshire, and London were rated more dangerous The city was also ranked poorly for alcohol-related sexual offences, alcohol-related crimes and alcohol-attributed deaths for men.
Police chiefs say violent offending in Bedford Place, Above Bar Street and Bevois Valley is linked to alcohol and “higher than that seen across the city as a whole”.
In a 16-page report to council chiefs, they blame the “availability of alcohol due to the concentration of licensed premises in the area”.
“Consequently restricting or reducing the availability of alcohol in these areas has the potential to reduce violence,” it adds. Mike Smith, manager of the Red Lion in the Bedford Place zone, blasted: “It’s ridiculous. Licences should be decided on their merits. Why should it be restricted on the basis on the number of recorded offences on other premises.”
He added: “I cannot really see where the police are coming from. They already have powers to revoke or review licences.”
A spokesman for the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, a trade body for pub and bar operators, said the policy could also affect the future development and “viability” of existing sites that wished to expand or change. “We would want the local authority to look at each [licence] application on its own merits”, the spokesman said.
The British Hospitality and Restaurant Association, a national trade association, added the policy may at any rate have come too late to curb wayward premises which would already have applied for later hours under the new laws.
“I would be surprised if there were many establishments that were wanting to extending or have new hours.
They have already done it even if they are not being used,” a spokesman said.
However some bars were supportive.
Dan Swingler from Goblets Wine Bar in Above Bar Street, said: “It’s something that needs to be addressed. If it reduces crime and trouble it’s definitely an option we should all support.”
Southampton City Council’s Cabinet member for economic development, councillor Royston Smith, who is also responsible for community safety, also backed the move.
He said certain areas of the city may have reached saturation point in the number of bars and clubs, which were increasingly linked the health problems and anti-social behaviour.
“On a personal level I would be sympathetic to starting to control the proliferation of theses establishments,” he said.
“There are some significant downsides to the amount of drinking we have in the city which does not have an economic development gain.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to have more of the same. I don’t think it would harm the night time economy.”
Peter Wirgman, chairman of the Southampton Federation o f Residents’ Associat - ions, said: “It’s good news. It would seem from residents who suffer noise disturbances from clubs and pubs that the licensing panel seem to grant [licence] extensions willy-nilly and don’t take an awful lot of objections seriously.”
The city council is likely to launched a three-month consultation on the new policy next Wednesday.
Junk Club, in London Road, which was linked to the highest number of violent offences recorded by police, declined to comment.
- For the full story, see today's Daily Echo.