Drinkers desert city nightspot as cold weather bites

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POLICE say snow and the cold weather has left a nightspot virtually deserted as sub-zero temperatures take hold.

Guildhall Walk in Portsmouth is normally heaving with thousands of revellers in the run-up to Christmas.

But it is believed the freezing temperatures, ice and snow has deterred people from going out.

Officers also say bars are a lot quieter because University of Portsmouth students have headed straight home for Christmas.

It's a big loss to bars and clubs in the city centre - but a welcome relief for police charged with tackling trouble at the notorious strip.

PC Brian Swallow, from Portsmouth's alcohol-related violent crime reduction team, who was out on patrol in Guildhall Walk at the weekend, said: 'It's really quiet. I think a lot of students from the university have gone straight home instead of going out. We were expecting it to be a lot busier.'

PC Swallow was among a team of officers who set up shop in nearby Guildhall Square on Friday night where drinkers were asked to volunteer for breathalyser tests as part of The News-backed Operation Drinksafe.

Revellers could also try driving a remote-controlled car while wearing specially-designed 'beer goggles' to show how alcohol can affect their judgment.

Those who took part were given free goodie bags containing condoms and advice.

And German shepherd Jet from Hampshire Constabulary's dog support unit was out on patrol with PC Gerard Harrison in Guildhall Walk, on the look-out for anyone in possession of illegal drugs.

Workers from Solent Healthcare were also on hand to offer advice on contraception.

And drinkers were given the chance to take a test for sexually transmitted infection chlamydia.

PC Swallow added: 'Normally people come down to Guildhall Walk and all they see of the police is us breaking up fights and dealing with public order offences.

'We've done this to try and interact with people more and give them the message that they don't have to go out and get as drunk as they can in the quickest time possible.

'It's about trying to encourage them to drink safely, sensibly and have a good night.'

Law student Rhiannon Martin, 19, from Farlington, said: 'I would never drink and drive.

'It's dangerous and a ridiculous thing to do. It's really good that the police are doing this.'

Student Sophie Davis, 21, said: 'I wouldn't drive after drinking. It's silly, it's not worth risking your life or someone else's - I wouldn't even drive after one drink.'