Police land knockout blow as Preston pub loses late-licence fight for Mayweather v McGregor showdown

Should bars be able to sell booze during the televised live fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor?
Should bars be able to sell booze during the televised live fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor?
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As first round knockdowns go, it was a jaw-dropping punch.

A city centre pub threw in a tentative application to continue serving until 6am so drinkers could enjoy the biggest box office fight in the history of boxing.

READ MORE: Mayweather v McGregor: Is it the battle of the century or little better than a circus act?

But police countered with a piledriver of a response. It would, they said, be a licence for a drunken punch-up.

In the end Preston Council’s licensing sub-committee gave a unanimous victory to the Constabulary.

And now pubs and clubs across Lancashire could be facing the same knock-back if they want to extend licensing hours to show the Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor showdown in Las Vegas on the night of August 26/27.

Boxing itself is known to create heated and sometimes a volatile atmosphere which can rapidly degenerate into disorder. It is a combative sport and creates high emotions.

READ MORE: Mayweather v McGregor: How to see the fight

Already two similar applications have been withdrawn in the city, at least two more in Chorley and a couple in Blackpool.

It would seem the licensed trade could be on the verge of throwing in the towel.

“We expected it to be honest,” said Ben Griffith, manager of Ships and Giggles in Fylde Road. “But we thought it was still worth a try.

“We put our case forward. We don’t believe it will spark any trouble. But the police think it might, so we accept that. We’ll take it on the chin.

“As long as every bar is treated the same as us then I have no problem with it.”

Ships and Giggles, in the heart of Preston’s University Quarter, was the first bar to test the water by appearing before licensing councillors yesterday.

Review, part of the Guild Hall complex, is scheduled to make the same application next week. Yates and Roper Hall have both had a change of heart and decided not to pursue a drinking extension for the fight.

The city’s new licensing sergeant Simon Ashcroft put the police case to the sub-committee and didn’t pull any punches.

He said there were real worries that because it was a contest between boxing and mixed martial arts champions, which may not start until 5am or later in the UK, it could be a recipe for trouble between two factions of fight fans fuelled on booze.

“It is the main event, the finale, of a series of fights and there is no precise time for it to start,” said Sgt Ashcroft. “If the previous bouts last 10 rounds each then it could possibly push on to 5am or maybe even later.

“Boxing itself is known to create heated and sometimes a volatile atmosphere which can rapidly degenerate into disorder. It is a combative sport and creates high emotions.”

He said that, should the top of the bill bout continue beyond 6am, then Ships and Giggles would be faced with a problem of having to clear the pub before it had finished.

There was therefore a risk, he maintained, of disorder both inside and outside the venue, sparked by fans’ frustration at not seeing the end of the fight.

Manager Ben Griffith had applied to extend drinking hours from 2am to 6am to cover the fight. It would have been a ticket-only event for a maximum of 125 customers.

“We have had other temporary event notices until late - one of them for wrestling - and there has never been any trouble,” he told the sub-committee.

Experienced head doorman Henry Fairclough added: “There has never been a major incident since I have been there. Many of our customers are students and they tend to behave themselves.”

After the hearing Ben, who revealed the pub would not be appealing, added: “We accept the ruling. I have a good relationship with the police and I don’t want to push it.

“I applied because I saw other venues were advertising they were showing it. But hopefully that won’t be the case.

“I thought we might as well come and put our case forward. At least we tried.”