Era of late-night drinking over in Great Yarmouth?

THE sight of revellers spilling out of Great Yarmouth pubs, clubs and bars in the early hours of the morning could soon be a thing of the past, as borough councillors attempt to turn back the clock on late-night licensing.

Councillors are looking into using new central government powers as a means of cutting back on establishments remaining open till as late as 6am.

The move, which would involve widespread consultation, comes as part of efforts to clean up the town's image and boost its late-evening trade but has been labelled 'diabolical' and potentially damaging to the town's nightlife.

Borough council deputy leader Charles Reynolds described how an experience of seeing the town at 5am on a weekend night had left him shocked.

'I saw it work abroad but it is just not the same over here, and when you looked down the seafront last summer you could see absolutely drunken men and women staggering all over the place being ill and vomiting in the back streets.'

Mr Reynolds, who stressed that any moves would exempt hotels or casinos, explained the idea had come about following discussions between himself and borough council leader Steve Ames and talks with a number of entertainment industry figures.

'It does nothing for Great Yarmouth, and one of the tragedies of recent times is that we have lost a lot of our evening spend.

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The place was buzzing until 11pm, or midnight and now you just don't get that.'

The plans were prompted by the recent enactment of the Localism Bill in Parliament, which seeks to strengthen the powers of local government, giving them the right to do 'anything apart from that which is specifically prohibited.'

However, the council are set to start discussing pulling back club and pub opening hours back to 2 or 3am with police early next year, with Mr Reynolds adding the curtailing measures could be introduced into planning policy.

Cllr Ames emphasised it was unlikely any change would be brought about within less than 18 months.

'Like most people we are in favour of a free trade and expected that people would take advantage of late night opening in a responsible way which, on balance, hasn't happened.

'A lot of people want to drink but having a late drink can mean that one becomes totally intoxicated and a nuisance to others.

'Yarmouth is a family resort, and some of the late night activities are not in keeping with that.'

The plans have received cautious backing from MP Brandon Lewis, who said the move would be useful in places like the town centre and pointed to recent figures claiming that 40pc of cancer was prompted by lifestyle choices, including consumption of alcohol.

Stating that he thought that many residents living near the town's seafront area would be 'delighted' with the news, he added the move might help change some of the late-night 'clientele' within the town for the good.

However, the idea has met strong resistance from at least one bar owner. Robert Keeler is general manager of Caesar's bar, on Marine Parade which opens until 3am.

He believed the reason people were not going out to drink in the early evenings was due to cheap alcohol available at supermarkets.

He added: 'They're trying to take the legs away from businesses trying to survive and it is diabolical.

'The seafront needs this business and people come to our town over the weekends to stay for it and that's what we do, and we do it well. Every single club owner will fight hammer and nail against this.'