Guild Hall will be a ‘hub not pub’

Simon Rigby

Simon Rigby

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The future of major plans to revitalise the night-time economy in part of Preston hangs in the balance.

Guild Hall bosses launched a bid to sell alcohol at the venue until 6am, with 24-hour opening, which they say will allow them to “stagger” the times people leave the premises.

But, at a hearing held on Friday, exactly two years since Guild Hall Ltd took over the 1970s building from Preston Council, police raised serious concerns about the knock-on impact the licence could have.

The council’s licensing sub- committee met to hear from owner Simon Rigby and his team, and the police, and following hours of discussion, adjourned until Monday to make its decision.

Mr Rigby said: “I think in the operation of the Guild Hall we have most definitely demonstrated our commitment to the development of it as a hub, not only for the city, but also the county of Lancashire.

“The investment in security is way beyond what’s required from a legal perspective, because we want to make the Guild Hall an oasis for the arts and leisure right in the centre of the county.

“We don’t just want it to be a well-policed place, we want it to be a calm and safe place for people to be and therefore we’ve invested way beyond what’s required.”

He said the 24-hour bid was mainly for LeVeL, the new bowling alley, and said: “People going out to get 10 shots for a tenner and fall over as quickly as they can is not what the Guild Hall is about, it’s about it being a 24-hour entertainment venue.”
Head of operations Richard Simkin said the venue had hosted three major Freshers events “without any issue”, and the meeting heard alcohol was not likely to be served until 6am every night.

But licensing sergeant Tony Bushell said a 6am alcohol licence would have a major impact on the city.

He said: “It will increase alcohol-related crime and disorder, it will have a negative long-term impact on the future of the city centre, not just the night time but the day time.

“And there will be some severe difficulties in being able to police these extra hours.”

He said the work being done at the Guild Hall was “commendable”, but said: “I believe the current situation and the application they are looking for will have a negative impact.”

He said it would “open the floodgates” to others wanting to open to 6am.