For a long time the antics that go in Guildhall Walk most Friday and Saturday nights have been an embarrassment.
That’s not to say that they are particularly out of the ordinary compared to what you can see in other town and city centre nightlife hotspots around the country, but at times the violence and anti-social behaviour have been at the extreme end of the scale – for a while the figures had Guildhall Walk down as the most violent street in Britain. Statistics may not always give the whole truth, but they give a flavour of what you can expect.
But to move on to happier news, it seemed as if a corner had been turned. One venue has been turned into a convenience store, which can only have lessened trouble, and the police and council came up with a range of ideas – such as taxi marshals, a more thorough banning mechanism for troublemakers, giving body-worn cameras to bouncers and improving the lighting – to make the area feel more safe. And it worked – the number of incidents dropped, and by the end of 2012 the figures were the lowest they’d been since detailed record-keeping started six years earlier.
This background is why we find issue with the plan by Yates’s in Guildhall Walk to apply for a licence until 3am.
There is now a fairly strong causal link between late-night opening and trouble. So-called cafe culture, the driver of the change to 24-hour licensing, has sadly proved to be elusive in this country.
And to most people, given the cost to everyone – in policing, NHS cover, and to those involved in any trouble – that late-night drinking entails, the answer would clearly seem to be to deter as many people as possible from it.
There are those who would say that this is the nanny state talking, and that businesses should be free to serve their customers’ needs.
But if a wider look is taken at the situation, and the question asked – who actually needs or benefits from drinking until 3am? – then the answer is clear.
Pub companies’ commercial desires should not be prioritised over the rest of society.