Warrington publicans 'too scared' to call the police

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Voodoo Lounge: Operator Neil Sparkes claim police have been 'relentless' in their investigations
Voodoo Lounge: Operator Neil Sparkes claim police have been 'relentless' in their investigations

Related tags License

Licensees in Warrington claim they will no longer call the police when there are incidents at their premises for fear it will be used as evidence against them in licensing reviews, following a suspected crackdown on late-night bars in the town.

Warrington Borough Council is set to review the licences of both Shenanigans, on Bridge Street, and Voodoo Lounge, on nearby Friars Gate, due to alleged problems at the bars. The move comes after a licence review of Fusion, on Bridge Street, in December, following allegations of brawls outside the bar — which led to a three month suspension of the licence and new conditions.

Earlier this year the PMA reported that police arranged meetings with each late-night operator in the Cheshire town to persuade them to close earlier, prompting licensees to suspect that they were attempting to bring in an early 
morning restriction order “through the back door”.


Neil Sparkes, who operates five venues in the north-west including Voodoo Lounge, said officers had been “relentless” in investigating his bar and he feels too “threatened” to contact police when there are incidents.

“Most weekends seven police officers are watching my front door waiting for something to occur,” he said. “They question anyone who is ejected from the premises by door staff to see if they can log it as an incident, whether it’s serious or not.”

Another late-night operator, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “If there are incidents we’ll be frightened of ringing the police because they might shut us down because of it.”

'No warning'

Licensing consultant Paul Douglas, who represented Fusion, said police collated evidence of alleged problems at the bar without telling the licensee and gave no warning prior to the review.

“The guidance clearly says if there are issues police should speak to premises about them. Licensees are responsibly reporting incidents to police and these are being turned around and thrown back at them during review.

“Police are saying the same thing at every review — they want revocation of the licence or otherwise the closing time to change.”

However, the police and council said there was “no specific clampdown on any particular premises or location”, with Cheshire Police adding that it was a “coincidence” that these three premises have been or are being reviewed.

Related topics Licensing law

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