Police issue warning over Guildhall Walk violence as Astoria seeks later midweek licence
SERIOUS concerns have been raised that the number of violent incidents in the Guildhall Walk area of Portsmouth could escalate if a nightclub receives an extension to its midweek licence.
The Astoria, the city’s biggest nightclub, is looking to extend its hours from Sunday to Thursday until 3.30am, in a move to rival the recently-renovated club Pryzm.
The former Liquid & Envy site was granted a late midweek licence by Portsmouth City Council.
Both the council’s own licensing manager and Hampshire police objected to Pryzm’s new licence, but councillors agreed to approve it based on strict licensing conditions.
Now The Astoria – which seeks to allow admission to customers via a back door to its sister venue the Lyberry Bar –says extending its licence would even the playing field.
However, police have issued a stern warning that serious incidents in the area remain ‘hugely prevalent’.
The force has revealed that of the most serious offences committed in Portsmouth under the influence of alcohol last year, 70 per cent of them happen ed between 8pm and 4am.
The area was previously identified as a ‘cumulative impact zone’ by authorities due to its history of violence.
PC Pete Rackham, licensing officer at Hampshire police, said: ‘The chief officer of police has identified a very real and very serious issue with violence and the most serious violence incidents.
‘These incidents are hugely prevalent within the CIZ and are as a result of persons congregating whilst drinking in the area. It is the belief of the chief officer that to allow this application to be granted will negatively impact on the CIZ and lead to further crime and disorder.’
Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the licensing sub-committee, PC Rackham divulged new alarming statistics from last year regarding the area to persuade councillors to reject the application.
Within the CIZ, serious offences peak between 2am and 3am, predominantly taking place outside licensed premises, that the number of serious offences in Portsmouth has been steadily on the increase for the past five years and that 85 per cent of all these offences between 8pm and 4am were committed by those under the age of 25.
Nikki Humphreys, licensing manager at the council, also objected to the application, stating: ‘By increasing the opening hours and availability of alcohol during the week, I am of the view that there will be an undoubted increase in problems that currently exist.
The Astoria is licensed to sell alcohol and be open until 2am from Sunday to Thursday.
A statement from lawyers on behalf of The Astoria pointed to measures they have in place to tackle disorder. These include body cameras on all staff, an ID-scanning system and welfare staff outside the venue.
Another statement read: ‘The application for longer hours has come about following a recent decision of the licensing sub-committee with regards to the premises known as Pryzm.
‘In short, [our] application has been made because this recent grant put the application premises at a commercial disadvantage.’
It went on to state that the club had not received any specific complaints from the police about midweek incidents and that by allowing an extension to its licence, the club would help disperse students across the area, reducing the risk of crime and disorder. The meeting at the Guildhall is at 9.30am tomorrow.