Oldham Council's "electric shock treatment" of licence reviews and the threat of tough sanctions has led to a revival in the night-time economy.
That's according to Oldham councillor Mark Alcock, who also expressed surprise at the trade's "half-hearted" battle over its actions — and revealed the authority had a £20,000 legal bill for a fight that never occurred.
Oldham reviewed licences of 22 town centre bars to force hard-line restrictions on trading, including post office style queues. Two bars ended up with this condition on their licences.
Similar action is now being taken against supermarkets.
Alcock told the Responsible Drinks Retailing Conference, organised by the Morning Advertiser and sister title Off Licence News: "We needed some electric shock treatment.
"We needed a quick way to highlight the role price has paid in undermining the night time economy in Oldham. We needed a way to fast-track improvement."
He said the action "worked even better than we thought".
"The signs are there of new investment coming in, operators eager to improve their offer, seek out new customers and start to attract the 58% of young people who live in Oldham who were too frightened to visit the town centre at night.
"We have new bars opening, refurbishments, significant interest in bringing new facilities to Oldham. Oldham is now the place to be."
Alcock spoke of industry chief executives "beating down" his door but said: "We thought the response would be a protracted legal battle. We had lawyers lined up to defend out position. The cost to us was £20,000.
"Don't get me wrong. They all threatened lawyers, judicial review, all expressed outrage at the audacity of the council's behaviour. But it was half-hearted."
Paul Smith, executive director of trade body NOCTIS — who spent a "difficult" summer with Oldham — disputed Alcock's claim that the industry's threat to act against it was "half-hearted".
"If there needed to be a fight in Oldham, we would have had a fight."
Smith labelled Oldham's approach "gunboat diplomacy" but added: "Partnership has come out of a fairly difficult situation."