Judge endorses bid to limit bars

A JUDGE has said longer hours for selling alcohol are creating “real problems” in Oxford’s Cowley Road.
District Judge Tim Pattinson spoke out after rejecting plans for Milano Bar to extend its opening hours. The venue had applied to open  until 1am from Sunday to Thursday and until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
However, Oxford City Council turned down the request, using its saturation policy introduced in 2010 to manage the large number of licensed premises in the area. It said the bar had to stick to its 11pm Sunday-to-Thursday and 1am Friday and Saturday closure.
The Milano’s appeal against the decision threatened to have serious implications for the policy, designed to reduce drunken behaviour in streets with numerous bars and clubs.
But sitting at Oxford Magistrates’ Court last month, district judge Pattinson kicked out Milano’s bid after considering “the real concerns” of residents.
The judge said: “The maps and statistics I’ve seen speak for themselves as to the problems of alcohol-related crime, disorder and nuisance.
“The effect on the area is wider than the immediate vicinity. It is not necessarily the direct consequences of the proposal that concern me but the bigger picture in terms of impact on the area. I am satisfied there are real problems created by longer hours for the sale of alcohol. I have had regard to the special saturation policy (SSP) which is designed to help limit these problems.”
He said there had been problems and complaints about the bar but accepted that owner Skender Drizi now had “positive management systems” in place.
Colin Cook, a member of the council’s licensing committee, welcomed the district judge’s decision.
He said: “It is good  our policy has stood the test of the magistrates’ court and we were justified in our decision. It is welcome news that our saturation policy is robust and can be used to prevent bars extending their hours and prevent the problems that the night time economy can bring to East Oxford.”
He hoped the ruling would set a precedent and discourage other bars from mounting legal challenges to the saturation policy.
Mr Drizi said: “Everyone accepted there is no problem with the way the business is run.
“It is hard to compete when other businesses around here can stay open.”
Ed Chipperfield, of James Street, and a spokesman for the East Oxford Residents’ Associations’ Forum, earlier said he hoped the city’s refusal would prove “a turning point” in East Oxford.

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