Leaders at Preston’s Guild Hall have launched a bid to serve alcohol at the venue until 6am, with 24-hour opening. But police have objected to the proposals, and a hearing is due to be held tomorrow at Preston Town Hall.
1. Why is a late licence needed?
Bosses at Preston’s Guild Hall have said the 24-hour licence would mainly be for LeVel, the venue’s bowling alley.
But they say it would also allow other events to take place within the building, including an over-night event being planned with the Scouts for next year.
Richard Simkin, head of operations at the Guild Hall, said the late licence would mean people could leave the venue at different times.
He 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 the venue had hosted three major Freshers events with thousands of students which were “absolutely fine”, and said the Guild Hall was a “unique” venue.
2. What are the police’s concerns?
Police have objected to the application, fearing it could “change the face and nature of Preston city centre for the foreseeable future”.
Licensing sergeant Tony Bushell said there was a “significant concern” about the knock-on effect of the application.
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 around the bid, 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.”
3. What is the ‘red zone’?
The Guild Hall falls within Preston’s cumulative impact policy area or “red zone”, which takes in part of the city centre.
A council policy document said: “The licensing authority has determined that a concentration of a significant number of licensed premises in one area is seen to be causing a negative cumulative impact on one or more of the licensing objectives and has therefore adopted a special policy.”
It said the policy had a “rebutable” presumption that applications for licences, likely to add to the existing cumulative impact, would be refused, unless applicants could demonstrate there would be no negative impact on the licensing objectives.
However, a Preston Council spokesman said all licensing applications were considered on their merits.
4. Do others have late licences?
In respect of pubs and bars in the centre of Preston, only one, Lofty’s, has a licence to sell alcohol until 6am.
Blitz, in Church Row in the city, is allowed to sell alcohol until 5.30am, and can open until 6am.
A number of other venues across Preston have licences until 4am.
Guild Hall bosses have submitted an application with Preston Council for a licence to allow the sale of alcohol, on and off the premises, and the provision of “regulated entertainment” from 9am to 6am every day.
They have also asked for a licence to allow the provision of late night refreshment from 11pm to 5am every day.
The proposed opening hours for the venue are 24 hours daily.
Richard Simkin said: “If we can’t do it, it’s not going to help us at all - it’s going to hinder us.”
He said the venue did, and would, work closely with the police.
5. What’s happening at Guild Hall?
The Guild Hall is about to open Live - a 500-capacity music venue in what used to be the foyer, hoped to attract acts from around the world as well as encouraging local artists to showcase their talent.
Live has a new stage and £20,000 sound and lighting rig, and is being billed as the “north west’s premier live music venue”.
Richard Simkin said: “This is an exciting phase in the development of Preston Guild Hall. The foyer space always had massive potential.
Now with the refurbishment, and bringing on board an expert team to see the concept for LiVe take shape, I am confident that this venture will be a success and a welcome addition to the North West’s music scene.”
Aside from live music, a bowling alley and karaoke booths have been approved for the venue, with plans also in to transform the Guild Tower into a hotel.