Pubpaper 746 – Massed Drunks and an Unnecessary Death

Posted: 12th February 2014 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

Just under a year ago Lancashire Police put out a consultation document regarding the introduction of an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) in the seaside resort of Blackpool.  This would have allowed the Local Authority to introduce restrictive rules regarding sale of alcohol between 3am and 6am in the morning within certain geographical areas or in all areas under their jurisdiction.  Any premises which were not exempted under the EMRO guidelines who served alcohol during this time would have to pay a late night levy which could be made up of processing, admin and enforcement costs.

According to the police statistics, which have so many assumptions, adjustments and estimates in the model it should be filed under the fiction section at the local library (and this is from someone who used to turn similar models into real software), the costs of managing alcohol was £100m in Blackpool in 2010-11.  That is a staggering £715 per head of population when NHS, Crime, Licensing, Workforce and Social Services costs are totted up.    Whilst I have doubt about the final figures they come up with, there is no doubt that their costs will be a lot higher than most other cities and towns.

Let me state my position on the town before I start, Blackpool would be the 10th level of Dantes Inferno if he had written the book 700 years later.   The place has turned from one of Englands biggest and most popular family holiday resorts in the 1950s and 1960s to Stag and Hen night hell most weekends from the 1990s onwards.   The place has an atmosphere about it, mainly made up of cheap fragrance, the smell of vomit and the sweaty burgers which preceded the act.  If you gave me a nuclear bomb with an area of effect of my choice it would be 4 miles by ¾ mile and be exploded just south of Blackpool Tower.  I refuse to even visit the place for the illuminations with my kids.

Here lies Blackpools Issue.  At night, towns like Halifax and Huddersfield attract a mix of drinkers, from older couples, groups out for a good night and real ale aficionados, to the clubbers who inhabit Liquid (more on that later), to those whose whole mission is to pickle their liver as quickly as possible.  The balance between these groups means that for every 100 drinkers, you might get 2-3 who cause problems each night, a number easily managed and contained by the police.  Blackpool gets the last group en masse, for a whole weekend, all day, from all over the north of England and Scotland.

A lot of the sea front bars are marketed at single sex groups out on the beer, happy hours start from 11am, its much easier to find a £2 a pint of Fosters or 3 shots for a fiver offer than it is find a decent beer along the front.   At night you have numerous pubs turning into pseudo-nightclubs where you can carry on drinking until the sun comes up in the middle of summer.   If you were truly dedicated, you could drink in licensed premises in this town for 20 hours non stop.  The town is predisposed to attract those who just want to drink until they can do it no more.    You feel this in the air late at night, when the atmosphere balances on a knife edge between good natured banter between groups and an all out group fight breaking out.  Add the fact that its two nearest cities, Manchester and Liverpool, have a history of rivalry regarding their football teams and too often it tips the wrong way.

Would 3am – 6am controlled drinking fix this, of course not, those people who are going cause trouble will have done it well before this window kicks in and been dragged home by mates to their hotel, or alternatively be sleeping off the night in the drunk tank.   The Blackpool Local Authorities last week rejected the Lancashire Police EMRO proposal, probably coming to the same conclusion that it would not make any significant difference in their alcohol related costs.  A sensible decision, but one which still leaves them the problem of dealing with a serious drinking problem in the town.

Drink related tragedy can strike anywhere, and the death of Andrew Feather at Liquid last week proves this.  I didn’t know the guy, but knew people who did, but he seems a well balanced, well liked member of the local Rugby Union community who seemed to be enjoying life. On a night out with friends he was attacked by a 25 year old who has now been arrested, reports say he went down out cold from a punch and never recovered.   A sad loss to friends and family which should never have happened.