Levy on late night bars in bid to make Blackpool safer at night

Late -opening bars could be asked to pay between �299 and �4,400 in a bid to improve Blackpool's town centre at night.
Late -opening bars could be asked to pay between �299 and �4,400 in a bid to improve Blackpool's town centre at night.
  • Fees of up to £4,400 would provide:
  • Funding for transport, taxi marshals and cctv
  • Zoning to separate drinkers and families
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A raft of new measures to make Blackpool safer at night are being proposed in a bid to encourage more residents to visit the town centre.

Zoning in order to separate rowdy drinkers from families, and introducing charges for premises which want to stay open after midnight are among the proposals set out in the final report of a working group formed last year to investigate Blackpool’s late night economy.

A lot of families have said they don’t feel comfortable coming into town at night, and there is a perceived threat because Blackpool has been quite unruly in the past.

Coun Adrian Hutton

The task force was set up after councillors rejected calls for an early morning restriction order (EMRO) which would have forced all venues to close at 2am.

Following a week-long hearing in February 2014, it was agreed to consider alternative measures.

A series of recommendations includes earmarking Queen Street and the area around it for late night entertainment, have been made.

By contrast St John’s Square, Church Street and Victoria Street would be zoned for cafes, restaurants and family-oriented uses.

Another key recommendation is the introduction of a late night levy for any bars wanting to open between midnight and 6am.

A late night levy, which would see premises have to pay annual fees of between £299 and £4,400 depending on set criteria and venue, was previously considered in 2012 but never pursued.

The levy charge would be split with 70 per cent going to the police, and 30 per cent going to the council, to be used to tackle crime and disorder, public safety, nuisance and street cleaning.

It is back on the table as a possible way of funding measures such as taxi marshals, CCTV and late night buses.

Blackpool Council’s licensing chairman Coun Adrian Hutton said: “A late night levy is something we have asked officers to look at and come back with a more detailed report.

“There is a lot that we need to get right before we even go out to consultation.

“We have to make sure it is viable, and for example that we are not double-charging people who are already part of the BID (Business Improvement District).”

Coun Hutton said the need for zoning had been sparked by the desire to ensure different groups could enjoy the town centre.

He added: “We want to make sure we are catering for all aspects of the community.

“A lot of families have said they don’t feel comfortable coming into town at night, and there is a perceived threat because Blackpool has been quite unruly in the past.”

Last November the Tower Lounge on Bank Hey Street, which had a reputation as a rowdy venue, was closed to make way for a new family eating experience with conversion work currently underway.

Other restaurants including Las Iguanas and Prezzo are also investing in the town centre in a move away from a ‘boozing only’ culture.

Dave Daley, landlord of The Castle on Central Drive, and North West chairman of Licensees Union Unite, said he welcomed proposals for a late night levy.

He added: “I would back it as long we there is a guarantee that all of the money raised is used to fund initiatives such as taxi marshals and late night buses which do make people feel safer. About five places including Liverpool and Newcastle are now seriously looking at late night levies.

“If premises don’t want to pay the levy, they can shut at midnight.”

If a levy were introduced it would cover the whole of the town, but there would be exemptions including for hotels who are only serving alcohol to their guests, and premises liable to paying a BID levy where some of that money goes towards preventing disorder in connection with late night licensed premises.

But pub chain Wetherspoons, which has four pubs in Blackpool, said it would be opposed to a late night levy.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are against the late night levy.

“We have opposed it from the beginning.

“We believe it is an unfair cost on well managed and well run pubs like ours.”

Other initiatives proposed in the report include an accreditation scheme for all licensed premises and supporting the use of public space protection orders which can be used to control problems such as street drinking.

The report also calls for CCTV to be funded - the council is due to re-introduce monitoring of the cameras in the new few weeks.