Bars and clubs in Norwich’s Prince of Wales Road cut drinking hours
It was once dubbed Norfolk's most dangerous road, but bar owners in Prince of Wales Road are clubbing together to help make the area safer by reducing the hours of alcohol sales.
Police have made tackling a rise in violence linked to the city's night-time economy a priority following an increase in serious violent offences.
They were particularly concerned about an increase in incidents between 3am and 6am at weekends in the city and were looking to use government legislation, expected to be available later this year or early next year, to deal with the issue by forcing venues to close earlier.
But police chiefs have today hailed the support of bar and club owners in Prince of Wales Road after they voluntarily agreed to stop selling alcohol at 4am to tackle the issue of rising night-time violence.
Paul Marks, manager at Mercy XL, part of Peri's Leisure together with Rocco's and Pulse, said the club, which did not have any major issues, was happy to help.
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He said: 'It's just a gesture from us to keep everyone happy and if it helps in the bigger picture then we will help out where we can. If it's something the police feel strongly about then we will look at it and if it's viable and it helps we will. We're team players.'
Senior officers from the police and city council have been working closely with licensees to improve safety in the night-time economy – with the early hour availability of alcohol being recognised as a key factor to disorder.
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Superintendent Paul Sanford, Norwich policing commander, welcomed the move and said he was 'grateful' to the owners of the pubs and clubs for taking 'positive action'.
He said: 'I'm delighted in two respects. One, that I firmly believe it will have an impact in terms of reducing violent crime and disorder in the city centre and reducing the impact the night-time economy has on local residents, particularly those living around Prince of Wales Road, and will create a natural break between the night-time economy and the day time which is blurred at the moment.
'Secondly, I'm pleased the clubs that have been working with us have realised there's a problem and have collectively decided to take positive action to address it.
'Problems around violent crime and anti-social behaviour in the night time economy will not be solved without this sort of commitment. The police, local authority and licensees need to work together to ensure Norwich is a safe place to enjoy a night out.
'I'm pleased that some venues are taking responsibility and the action ultimately shows they understand the supply of alcohol well into the early hours is a contributing factor in violent crime and disorder.'
A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: 'As the licensing authority, the city council, is happy to support the police in this collaborative work to promote the licensing objectives and to encourage a night time economy which is both thriving and safe.'
Supt Sanford said demand on policing resources had increased significantly since 2009 when bars started opening beyond 4am and that between four and six more officers were deployed at weekends.
He added that before 2009 officers would generally return to normal patrolling at about 4am whereas now they are required until 6am and often later.
Supt Sanford said: 'Since de-regulation through the Licensing Act in 2005, clubs in Norwich have opened beyond 4am and there has been a dramatic increase in alcohol related crime between 3am and 6am. This would be much higher were it not for the police presence on the streets in the early hours.
'Earlier closing will help to re-balance the resource demand for emergency services and city council services such as street cleaning. Currently, clubs and bars will serve a handful of people beyond 4am which we believe is way out of proportion given the impact this has on the city centre environment. This will go some way to creating a healthier gap between night-time entertainment, clearing up from that, and day time business activity in Norwich.'
He also said it might allow police to focus their resources in other areas without the need for officers to be pulled in from other areas, as is currently the case, to deal with problems in Prince of Wales Road.
Although the 4am finish, which begins tonight, is only being observed by clubs and bars in the Prince of Wales Road area at the moment Supt Sanford said he hoped the small number of other venues in the city currently open beyond this time might follow suit.
He said: 'I would like all late night operators to consider voluntarily reducing their operating hours should we think that might make an impact upon crime and disorder in the night-time economy.'
The government wants to impose a late night levy as part of a proposed overhaul of the Licensing Act aimed at giving councils and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licenses to, any premises causing problems.
Early-morning restriction orders (EMROs) could also see a restriction on the sale of alcohol from midnight to 6am at certain premises, is also part of the legislation which might be available by October.
Tackling violent crime is a priority for Norfolk Community Safety Partnership and for the Constabulary and this initiative follows other strands of the Norfolk Nightsafe campaign aimed at reducing offences and improving overall safety in the night-time economy.
Operation Impact sees three times as many officers flood the streets of Norwich working closely with venues, door supervisors and partner agencies including the city council, SOS Bus project and street pastors.
Impact nights were held in April and June with further operations planned in October and December.
<t> To plan nights out in Norwich, club goers should know that the latest time for sale of alcohol for all venues on Prince of Wales Road will be 4am from tomorrow, Friday 3 August.
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