Time must be called on 24-hour licensing or Burnley’s nightlife will be killed off for good.
That is the view of a number of town centre bar owners who are pleading with authorities to put an end to late night drinking and help revive the ailing night-time economy.
Mick Cookson, owner of Rum Jungle (formerly Posh) has worked in the bar and club industry for 30 years and said the situation was worse than it had ever been.
“I had Panama Joe’s from 1991 to 1997. On a Thursday we’d have 1,000 people in. On a Friday, 2,000. Nowhere is like that now and it’s just getting worse.
“We spent nearly a quarter of a million refurbishing this place in August/September and I couldn’t understand why it was taking time to take off. I was looking at everything but it’s just the way the climate is. I have never had to work at promoting a club as hard in my life. We had a rough ride at first but it’s turned around. It’s still not how it used to be though.
“The culture has changed and bars opening until 8am are not helping. We open at 10pm and there’s nobody here. There’s nobody anywhere in town. We’re paying staff and doormen and there’s nothing for them to do. People are coming out at midnight now. You see them all arriving in taxis with cans in their hand. We don’t want to be opening at midnight, staff aren’t going to want to just work three hours. What would be the point? And even when the people come in, they’re already drunk so they’re not even buying drinks.
This is the worst I have ever seen it and if something isn’t done soon then Burnley town centre at night will die a death. That’s the way it is going.Mick Cookson
“This is the worst I have ever seen it and if something isn’t done soon then Burnley town centre at night will die a death. That’s the way it is going. I don’t think the council are helping at all. The rates are extortionate for a start.
“We need to get people back out earlier and changing the licensing laws would help this. I think closing at 3 or 4am is an ideal time.”
When asked why the bars could not come up with a curfew themselves, Mr Cookson did not hesitate in giving his response. “Greed! Everybody is trying to squeeze what they can out of it but it’s not helping. It’s killing it. Everybody needs to pull together. The police must be sick of it as well. They’re having to work silly hours, 10pm until 10am, just to keep an eye on everybody.”
Police were called out to an incident in Hammerton Street at 7am on Easter Saturday when a drunken brawl, involving around 15 people, ended with one man needing hospital treatment after his head was stamped on.
Walkabout and Lava Ignite, once popular bustling town centre venues, now sit boarded up and Madge Nawaz, co-owner of Remedy in Ormerod Street, said many more could soon be going that way if things do not change soon.
“People are drinking longer than ever. They’re drinking before they come out. They come out at midnight and then carry on right through to 7am. There’s bound to be trouble.
“The council says there is nothing they can do about it. I don’t think anybody wants these late nights. No staff want to work these hours, taxis, takeaways, emergency services, it puts unnecessary pressure on them all.
“We’re losing the Sunday nightlife as well. People are getting in at 8am on Sundays. Why would they want to come back out? I think 3 to 4am would be a reasonable time. It would be far more acceptable. Five years ago we were busy Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Now it’s just Friday and Saturday and even Fridays are starting to die off. Something has to be done. Burnley will end up like Blackburn if it carries on.”
Burnley Council has looked at the feasibility of introducing Early Morning Restriction Orders under which a local authority can designate an area in which closing times can be restricted. Other authorities, including Blackpool, have tried and failed to introduce such orders which are difficult to successfully apply for.
Given Blackpool’s experience, the idea of an EMRO is currently on hold in Burnley but strong pressure from licensees and the police could see it looked into again.
A council spokesman said: “We work closely with partners such as the police to monitor the situation in Burnley town centre and work together to try and resolve any issues, particularly around anti-social behaviour.”