Post midnight alcohol ban for trouble spots?

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SENIOR police officers will meet with councillors to discuss new powers to ban Banbury’s pubs and nightclubs from selling alcohol after midnight.

Last week Cherwell district councillors met to note changes to the Police Reform and Social Responsibilty Act ahead of a meeting with Thames Valley Police’s leading officers and Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld in the new year.

The changes empower the council to ban alcohol sales any time between midnight and 6am in trouble hotspot areas, or alternatively introduce an annual late night levy of up to £1,493 for pubs to remain open after midnight to cover the cost of policing the late night economy.

Since being informed of the changes landlords have spoken out against the new powers, fearing they could have a damaging impact on pub trade.

Lan Xi, landlady of The Wheatsheaf in Banbury said: “I don’t think this makes sense for pubs; it makes more sense for nightclubs. We are a responsible licensee and hardly need police; the levy should be decided on who needs the police more.

“We close at 1am at weekends but if we had to pay more or stop serving alcohol we’d close at midnight and lose an hour’s trade. It’s really difficult at the moment and this will make it even tougher.”

The Police Reform and Social Responsibilty Act first came into force in April, making several changes to the Licensing Act 2003.

It has now been updated to include the new powers such as Early Morning Restriction Orders (EMRO) which ban the sale of alcohol across the whole or part of the licensing authority’s area.

Councils can apply for EMROs if they have identified a problem in a specific area attributable to the supply of alcohol at two or more premises in that locality.

Alternatively if premises stay open after midnight they could be forced to pay a late-night levy.

The cost would be based upon the pub’s rateable value band and, unlike EMROs, it would be applied to the entire district beginning at or anytime after midnight and ending no later than 6am.

Graham Harris, landlord of The Dog and Gun in Banbury, said problems with drunken behaviour stemmed from supermarkets and not pubs.

“People get cheap booze from the supermarket and then the culture is to get as much down their neck as quickly as possible and then go to the pub so as not to spend as much money,” he said.

“Alcohol needs to be more expensive in supermarkets so people do drink in pubs where staff can monitor and regulate it. The pub trade is being hit all the time with cost implications and it needs to go back to being the social community it used to be.”

Cllr Tony Ilott, Cherwell’s lead member for public protection, said: “The new laws are under discussion and we are evaluating the options and looking to clarify the repercussions of them. We will talk to the police in the future but as it stands no decisions have been made and won’t be made until the new year, if at all.”