Struggling Preston city centre pubs risk being finished off by the strict conditions that are being placed on the licences of some venues following recommendations made by the police.Advertisement
That was the warning from the deputy leader of Preston City Council who has called for a more realistic approach to the additional rules that can be imposed on venues when they are found not to have upheld expected licensing standards.
Cllr Martyn Rawlinson – who stressed that he was speaking “as a city centre pub-goer rather than as a councillor” – told a recent meeting of the full council that the hospitality sector had “never really recovered” from the pandemic and was now facing a battle on another front.
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He implored the chair and members of the authority’s own licensing committee, along with council officers, to “work more closely with pub landlords and listen to them more”.
Without naming an individual venue, Cllr Rawlinson highlighted “a city centre pub [that] has shut down very recently, citing the licensing restrictions placed on them”.
He added: “It is a complex issue, it’s not [just] one thing – but it’s part of it and it was the final straw, according to some.
“There are other pub landlords – city centre landlords, especially – worried about the practices of the police licensing officer, who they feel is overzealous and is targeting some establishments. And the licensing committee have put restrictions in place [based] on…their recommendations.
“Things like making city centre pubs that survive on Saturday night trade use plastic glasses and close early – that’s just the kiss of death, the pub’s finished then, straight away.
“The licensing system has to work for everybody. Obviously, customers have to be safe.
“I’m not worried about the breweries, they’ll be fine…[but] pub landlords often work for the brewery or they work for themselves – and it’s a very tough business these days.
“There needs to be some realism, we need to…take notice [of what landlords are saying],” Cllr Rawlinson said.
The Stanley Arms, on Lancaster Road in the city centre, announced last week that it would be closing until further notice because of what its management described in a social media post as “licensing pressures”. The venue had been advised that it was being brought before Preston City Council’s licensing sub-committee this Thursday – although the reasons for the hearing were not made public when notice of the meeting was first published on the authority’s website.
Late last year, the pub was ordered by the committee to serve drinks in plastic cups, increase the number of door staff on duty at certain times and close at 2am rather than 4am. It followed separate incidents in which four people were “glassed” in the space of six weeks – prompting the police to request a review of the premises licence.
Responding to Cllr Rawlinson’s comments, licensing committee chair Cllr Connor Dwyer said that he could not comment on an individual case and emphasised that he and members would go into any review hearing keeping “an open mind to what the licence-holder says and also to the evidence that we have…been presented with”.
However, he added that he agreed with “a lot of the points” Cllr Rawlinson had made. He said that agreeing to the closure of pubs was “the last thing I want to do”.
“I back our high street and I back our local pub[s], both in the city centre and in the suburbs,” Cllr Dwyer said.
Council licensing committees are charged with upholding the so-called “licensing objectives” that govern the operation of venues serving alcohol – namely public safety, the prevention of crime and disorder, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm.
Speaking separately to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Cllr Rawlinson said that when it came to issues concerning violence in pubs, “you’ve got to make the public safe”.
However he said that pubs were now competing for a smaller number of potential customers, because people had become used to staying at home since Covid struck.
The LDRS approached Lancashire Police for comment.
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