Portsmouth venues participate in breathalyser trial in attempt to stamp out drunken violence

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Breath test: Five Portsmouth sites will take part in a trial to breathalyse customers before granting them entrance to night-time venues
Breath test: Five Portsmouth sites will take part in a trial to breathalyse customers before granting them entrance to night-time venues

Related tags: Portsmouth

Customers at five bars and clubs in Portsmouth will be breathalysed at the door in a trial by the city’s council to try to stamp out alcohol-induced violence.

Portsmouth City Council has invested £2,300 in eight breathalysers which will be distributed between five venues in Gunwharf Quays and Guildhall Walk.

Tests will be random and voluntary; however, refusal to comply could result in customers being turned away at the door.

Portsmouth joins venues across the country, including a number in London​, York and Weymouth, Dorset, in introducing breathalyser schemes​ in an attempt to root out unruly customers.

'Responsible venues'

Portsmouth Pubwatch chair Gemma Sands, who manages the Lyberry and the Astoria in Guildhall Walk, is taking part in the scheme. She told Portsmouth News​: “I’m pleased to be part of this research and think it’s a worthwhile thing to trial in the city.

“The Lyberry and the Astoria pride themselves on being responsible venues and we want to make sure everyone coming here has a fun and safe night out.

“We’re hopeful that random breathalyser tests will make people think twice about how much they drink before coming here and reduce the chance of any unnecessary drunken incidents.”

Concern about overuse

However, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association Brigid Simmonds has urged pubs to err on the side of caution when it comes to the broad introduction of breathalyser tests.

Simmonds commented: “It’s an experiment, but I would be concerned about the overuse of breathalysers for pubs and clubs - they could be an imposition on the vast majority of well-behaved customers and premises which are well-run, with staff and procedures used to dealing with these challenges.

“It should be up to individual operators to assess whether they think this would help them manage issues with customer behaviour. I would certainly be against any blanket conditions on licences to enforce a requirement to use breathalysers, and we strongly support working in partnership with the police, local authorities and bodies such as Pubwatch and Best Bar None.”

The breathalyser trial in Portsmouth has been announced in time for Mad Friday 2017, so-called because it falls on the last Friday night before Christmas – a busy night for festive revellers, A&E departments and police alike. 

'Treated as criminals'

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the ALMR took a firmer stance in opposition to the trial. She stated: "We are concerned at the widespread and indiscriminate use of breathalysers in licensed premises and believe that machines are not an appropriate or effective substitute for trained staff in spotting vulnerable customers or defusing drunken situations calmly.

"In our experience, the use of a breathalyser is likely to inflame or incite aggravation,  with people feeling they are being treated as criminals, and aggressive behaviour towards our door teams.

"There is no clear evidence that breathalysers reduce violence or crime and while they may have a role to play in deterring drunkenness, that is in the context of policing a town centre, not a hospitality environment.

"We all have a shared objective of promoting a great and a safe night out, but this initiative sends all the wrong signals to those guests looking for that, in fact it sends exactly the opposite message and implies that the venue or town centre is a no go zone – that is a retrograde step."

Related topics: Health & safety

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