Police and SOS Bus see busy night as clubbing returns to city
- Credit: Clarissa Place
Norwich's clubland sprang into life on Saturday, on a night which saw "a number of arrests" and a busy few hours for the city's SOS Bus.
This weekend marked the first since coronavirus restrictions were lifted on July 19, on so-called Freedom Day. It became the first time nightclubs have been able to reopen since the pandemic started.
Anticipating a busy night, police had introduced extra patrols in Norwich, King's Lynn and Great Yarmouth.
And superintendent Terry Lordan, Norwich policing command, said the night time economy had been busy as expected, with an increased number of offices on duty to "meet additional demand and provide reassurance".
"There were a number of arrests which was unfortunate and does not represent the vast number of people who were out enjoying the night time economy," he said.
"We worked with partners over the weekend to ensure that the reopening went as smoothly as possible."
Beth Williams, SOS Bus development manager, said the team cared for 16 people across Saturday night and saw around 50 more, as support carried on until 4.30am - an hour longer than the service was due to run.
Ms Williams said this was because of demand for taxis, with some people reporting waits of five hours to get home.
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Courtesy Taxis said they had been "off the charts" on Saturday night, with calls still coming in at 6am.
ABC Taxis in Norwich agreed that firms were in demand, with the phone "ringing off the hook" amid a national shortage of drivers.
Ms Williams said: "We're back to pre-Covid life. Everything is back to normal. I think Friday night was manageable. It was Saturday, there were tons of clients and people needing help.
"It didn't take us by surprise but it was a case of 'I remember, this is what it is like'. 16 clients is a large number for us, it is usually 10 or 11.
"The other really noticeable thing from last night is trying to get the message to the punters of Prince of Wales Road is plan their journey home. Last night there were two people it would have been quicker for them to walk home to Wymondham than wait for a taxi.
"By 1am to 2am it was lively. If you did not have to be out on Prince of Wales Road, in bed was probably the best place to be."
The SOS Bus has continued its infection control measures to protect volunteers, with people requiring care on the bus having their temperature checked.
The team begin their shifts at 9.30pm, and within 20 minutes helped with a medical emergency. The remaining 15 cases included accidents, assaults and assisting those that were intoxicated.
Ms Williams said: "Several of them were 18 or 19 and it was their first time out ever.
"The first weekend as 18 or 19, all bets are off. They could do what they wanted and most of them were very honest it was their first time out.
"We printed out 50 A5 leaflets just of taxi company numbers on it and gave them all out last night."
To try and assist party goers with taxi issues the team suggested calling someone to come and collect them or arrange a place to stay, but this did at times cause a build up of people around the bus.
Ms Williams said: "Sometimes its simply charging a phone or giving them a bottle of water to help them sober up or plasters so they can walk home. It's the really simple things."
Ms Williams praised the police and ambulance service who checked in throughout the night.
She added the team urgently needed more volunteers and that people could join by signing up at https://sosbus.co.uk/