Public Affairs Correspondent Paul Dale says police are cracking down on drunken violence in Birmingham’s gay quarter
Bars and clubs are turning a blind eye to late-night drunkenness and brawls in an attempt to drive up profits during the recession after an increase in late-night brawls, claim police.
West Midlands Police succeeded in securing a banning order on cheap drinks promotions at one of Hurst Street’s busiest pubs and managed to block approval of an all-night drinks licence at a new bar-restaurant in nearby Essex Street.
A city council licensing sub-committee yesterday refused to grant an application for a 24-hour alcohol and music licence at the Bombay Spice restaurant, which is being renamed Niche Bar & Restaurant.
The sub-committee ruled the application was in breach of a special council policy in place in that part of the gay quarter which states that the number of licensed premises already in the area is so high that any further bars or clubs would lead to crime and disorder and a breach of public safety.
The conditions attached to the Cumulative Impact Order were such that it would be impossible for applicants to prove that an additional licence would not have an adverse impact on crime and disorder in the area, Birmingham police licensing officer Karen Jones claimed.
Niche Bar’s application was turned down even though councillors accepted that police had never had to deal with trouble when the premises was operating solely as an Indian restaurant with a drinks licence.
In a separate hearing, the sub-committee imposed new conditions on the licence held by Barracuda bar in Hurst Street.
Barracuda agreed to prohibit happy hour promotions and discounted drinks on Friday and Saturday nights and any Sunday night before a bank holiday.
The bar’s owners confirmed that a previous licence holder at the premises left the company after police dealt with “serious” outbreaks of drunkenness and disorder. Ten arrests were made on the night of September 18-19 and prosecutions are pending.
Wpc Jones said police were increasingly concerned about crime and disorder in and around Hurst Street and had been unable to negotiate a voluntary deal with bar and club owners banning cheap drinks promotions at weekends. It was not unusual for 40 arrests to be made on Fridays and Saturdays in Hurst Street and Broad Street.
She said: “West Midlands Police are already experiencing greater demands on this area due to the volume of licensed premises and with these premises struggling with the limited number of people visiting the area they are taking more risks to make money. It appears they are more concerned with generating a profit than maintaining a safe venue.”
Tony Poultney, representing the owners of Niche Bar, said police were mistaken in assuming that the premises were to be turned into a nightclub. He said the new licence would enable the building to be used chiefly as a restaurant with bars.
Mr Poultney added: “We are looking for a mature clientele over 25 years of age. We are not looking for drinks promotions, it will be as much food provision as drinks provision. This is a family-run business with utterly professional management.”