Councils likely to shun early-morning restriction orders

By Gurjit Degun

- Last updated on GMT

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Councils likely to shun policies to restrict pub closing times
Rising numbers of local councils are likely to shun policies that restrict pubs from opening later, realising the negative impact this could have on businesses.

That’s the view from the pub trade, following news that Blackpool Council has delayed its decision to implement an early-morning restriction order (EMRO) after hearing representations from licensees that it could lead to 500 job losses.

The authority had plans for a 3am curfew for pubs and bars to make the town more “family-friendly”.

Licensing lawyer Jonathan Smith, partner at Poppleston Allen, said he thinks councils will think twice before introducing EMROs.

“I think we will see councils requiring further statistical evidence from the police or asking licensed operators to find alternatives to introducing an EMRO,” he told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.

“I think councils will be concerned that businesses will have to close down. They will need to make sure they have some sound evidence before taking such Draconian measures.”

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ (ALMR) strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls added: “I think that we will see other councils realising the merits of Blackpool’s approach of talking to licensees before going ahead with a consultation.

“Blackpool should be applauded for doing that. It’s an encouraging sign that local authorities are seeing that this is an opportunity to look at the area and talk to operators.”

She said the ALMR was trying to make councils aware of the downsides of introducing an EMRO or late-night levy and hopes people will start to realise the negative impact such policies could have.

British Beer & Pub Association spokesman Neil Williams said he would “hope other councils pay close attention”.

“Local authorities would be wise to be concerned that pressing ahead with an EMRO could damage their town centres and the local economy, so other councils should take a similar view,” he added. “The best way forward is better partnership working through schemes such as local pubwatches, Best Bar None, and business improvement districts.”

Blackpool Council heard proposals from local pubwatch chairman Craig Southall that the trade should work closer with the police by enforcing more drink banning orders.

Dave Daly, of Blackpool’s Castle Hotel, and north-west chairman of the Licensees Unite union, told the council that introducing an EMRO would lead to 500 job losses. He explained this figure includes the knock-on effect for other businesses such as kebab houses and taxis.

“They wouldn’t close down a factory with that many job losses,” said Daly. “They [the council] have come to us with a nuclear option. We will be a laughing stock if the bars
are forced to close early. We will lose customers to Manchester or Liverpool.”

Despite these concerns some councils are pushing ahead with EMRO plans. Hartlepool Council, in County Durham, is set to be the first local authority to hold a hearing into plans to implement an EMRO on 24 April.

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