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EMROs vs. Partnership – there should only be one winner

On 13/05/13 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

Last week’s decision by Hartlepool Borough Council’s licensing committee to reject the proposed Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Order (EMRO) was significant for a number of reasons.

The powers to introduce an EMRO came into effect in October 2012, and Hartlepool has been the first Council (on the recommendation of the police) to formally consult on this proposal. The EMRO as proposed would have prevented the sale of alcohol after 2am by premises in Hartlepool town centre, in effect shutting down the late night economy after this point. Whilst the majority of the affected businesses in Hartlepool would have been dedicated late night venues rather than ‘traditional’ pubs, it should be remembered that an EMRO can be set at any time from midnight until 6am and is fundamentally untargeted and unfair on licensed premises – therefore EMROs should be challenged by the entire licensed trade at every opportunity.

The evidence base presented by the police in Hartlepool did not support the introduction of an EMRO. Indeed, Hartlepool has in fact seen significant decreases in offences in the night time economy since 2005, making the evidential grounds for the introduction of an EMRO even shakier.

Licensee and trade representatives at this week’s hearing presented the licensing committee with a number of negative consequences of implementing an EMRO, including customers moving to other towns or drinking at home after on-trade options are curtailed by an EMRO, a surge of people leaving premises at the same time - as happened prior to the Licensing Act 2003 - potentially placing pressure on police and taxi marshals.
Perhaps the most important point, however, is that businesses with a core late night trade would in effect be losing a large part of their attraction and custom if forced to close at 2am. Given the current economic challenges facing the late night sector, such a restriction on trading could well make the business unviable, leading to both economic impacts and job losses. Premises that have been granted their hours following legitimate applications, approved by the licensing authority, would in effect be penalised and potentially forced to close despite not causing any problems.

Hartlepool licensing committee decided on the basis of such representations that an EMRO in Hartlepool was not appropriate at this time – and one of the reasons given at the hearing was the impact such a measure would have on the viability of licensed premises and the subsequent impact on the local night time economy. Instead, the committee recommended that partnership working options should be explored – a positive solution that allows good and effective interaction between the trade, police and the licensing authority.

As Hartlepool has demonstrated, blunt legislative measures such as EMROs and Late Night Levies are not the way forward. Real partnership working and using the powers of the Licensing Act to target individual problem premises is the key to achieving a vibrant, successful and safe on-trade for customers, operators and enforcers alike.


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