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Police: St Helens bars to pilot earlier closures for 'business reasons'
7:00pm Wednesday 4th December 2013 in News
BARS in St Helens town centres will revert to 2am closing times during January as part of a month-long trial.
The pilot follows discussions with police who have brought licensees together to test what impact the changes would have on nightlife.
But officers have rejected suggestions they have pushed for earlier closure times to try and quell incidents of violence or disorder that run through the early hours.
They also denied claims it is because police resources are thinner on the ground after 3am or that accident and emergency departments are taking casualties later into the morning.
Since the relaxation of licensing laws in 2005 bars have been able to open beyond what was the traditional drinking up time of 11pm for pubs or 2am for nightclubs.
A number of bars in the town centre open until 3am at weekends and some use temporary event notices until 5am, which they market heavily on social media.
But after extensive talks bars have agreed to the trial and a marketing push – centred on getting people “out earlier”– is due to be launched.
Insp Dave Brennan said: “There is a feeling that the later opening times aren’t really working in a town like St Helens.
“There is a couple of reasons – the town centre is not as big as Liverpool and Manchester and the later hours have also led to people simply coming out later and later.
“Some have been coming out to venues on Westfield Street after midnight, which is big difference from an 8pm or 9pm start.
“This has come from them [the licensees]. They have all agreed and it is all voluntary.
“It’s not because there are loads of fights at 5am in the morning. It is a business decision. At no stage have the police said – you have to do this.”
It is understood there was reluctance by some bars to sign up to the agreement, with some licensees fearing losing a competitive edge, but once there was a consensus that all parties would take part in the trial, the objections were dropped.
Insp Brennan, meanwhile, admitted that January, traditionally a quieter month following the festive season, was an ideal time to give bars the chance to test the changes.
He said: “The only way we were going to get them on board was in a month like January – if we had gone from December there is no way that would have happened.”
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