Plans to revitalise the night-time economy in part of Preston may have hit the buffers after police raised “significant” concerns about the impact on the city.
Guild Hall bosses have launched a bid to serve alcohol at the venue until 6am with 24-hour opening, which they say is essential for their vision for the centre.
But police have objected to the application, fearing it could “change the face and nature of Preston city centre for the foreseeable future”.
The 1970s venue is undergoing a massive regeneration, with live music, 10-pin bowling and bars and restaurants among the plans.
But the Guild Hall falls within the city’s cumulative impact policy area or “red zone”, and police fear allowing the licence would have a “significant impact on the policing of the night time economy”.
Licensing sergeant Tony Bushell said there was a “significant concern” about the knock-on effect, and said more details would be revealed in next week’s hearing.
He said: “The plans are a massive investment in Preston and will put it on the map.
“However, we believe the vision encapsulating a 6am licence and 24-hour opening may put Preston on the map for the wrong reasons and may undermine what they are trying to achieve.”
He said police had three main areas of concern, and said: “It’s about the increase in crime and disorder, the impact on Preston itself, particularly the night-time economy, and the impact on the policing of the city centre in those hours.”
In a letter submitted to Preston Council’s licensing committee, Sgt Bushell said: “The result of large numbers of customers who would be in drink leaving these premises would impact on crime and disorder in the city centre and would have a significant effect on persons whose work requires them to come into the city centre at that time.
“This application, if granted, would also fuel the need for other premises operating within the city centre to seek later hours in order to compete.
“This would therefore further increase the numbers of persons who were either in drink or drunk in the area which again would have the knock on effect of increasing crime and disorder.”
Richard Simkin, head of operations at the Guild Hall, said the 24-hour licence would mainly be for LeVeL, the venue’s bowling alley, but would also “free up the hall for all sorts of events”, including an over-night event with the Scouts being planned for next year.
He said the late licence would mean bosses could “stagger” the times people left, without everyone leaving at the same time.
Restaurants would close at 10pm as normal.
He said: “At LeVeL, shift workers and people who work in bars can come and have a beer and a bowl and go home.”
Mr Simkin insisted the application was “not to target 24-hour drinking” and would only be relevant for specific events, but said: “If we don’t get this licence it is going to be a big struggle because we need that option to stay open until later.”
He said new venue Live would be used as a pre and post-show venue, and said the Guild Hall attracted a “diverse” clientele.
He said: “The clientele we’ve got to our shows, it’s clearly not groups of lads and girls who go out drinking, it’s a lot more diverse.
“Some might not want to stay until that time, but they can do.”
He said: “If we can’t do it, it’s not going to help us at all - it’s going to hinder us.”
Mr Simkin said the venue had hosted three major Freshers events with thousands of students which were all “absolutely fine”, and said: “We’ve proved we can do it.
“It’s the safest venue in Preston.”
He said: “We are a completely different and unique venue and that’s the message we want to get across.”
He added that police feared the application could “open the floodgates” for others, but said: “They take them on their own merits.
“We will work and do work very closely with the police.”