Licensing restrictions imposed on Carmarthenshire nightlife spot

LICENSING restrictions have come into force on one of Carmarthenshire’s busiest nightlife spots.

Lammas Street, Carmarthen, has 18 pubs, nightclubs, late-night takeaways and off-licences, and there have been complaints about persistent anti-social behaviour.

New premises licences and licence variations which could add to the overall impact will be turned down from now on, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Opinions are mixed on the causes and extent of the issue, but a consultation by Carmarthenshire Council found there was agreement for action to be taken.

Full council has now adopted the licensing restrictions – or “cumulative impact assessment” – for Lammas Street, while also continuing a similar arrangement for the lower end of Station Road, Llanelli.

Lammas Street licensee Nigel Vaughan said he felt it was a case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted because late licensing hours introduced by the UK Government more than a decade ago were now the norm.

“The problem is not new,” said Mr Vaughan, who owns The Rose and Crown Hotel.

“The council has not got the powers to sort the late licensing out. I think that’s the issue.”

Mr Vaughan, who stressed he had no axe to grind, said Lammas Street was a bottleneck as revellers congregated for an end-of-the-night takeaway and taxi home.

He added: “People go out later, and they’re coming into town ‘loaded’.”

But he didn’t think the character of the street had changed, and reckoned the pubs were well run.

Mayor of Carmarthen, councillor Emlyn Schiavone, volunteers for a group called Night Lights, which helps revellers who are worse for wear or distressed while out in the town.

Referring to Lammas Street, he said: “I am very aware of the situation.”

Cllr Schiavone said late-night rowdiness — specifically on Saturday nights — affected people living on the street.

He said getting the balance right between a popular night-time economy and the needs of residents was key.

He said he has had meetings with council officers and fellow councillors to see how improvements could be made, and that police officers have spoken to licensees.

“There are no easy solutions,” said Cllr Schiavone. “The cumulative impact assessment is trying to get the right balance.”

He said the presence of a taxi rank on Lammas Street “kind of exacerbated” the situation, and that arguments could break out at the fast-food takeaways, which he said had employed security staff.

“To be fair the police are trying to monitor the situation,” he said. “Obviously they are under pressure in terms of cutbacks, but sometimes they have a mobile police station at (nearby) Guildhall Square.”

Cllr Schiavone said party-goers in his day went out from around 7pm to 1am, but that habits had changed.

He added that changes to smoking laws were great for the majority, but also meant more people hanging around outside pubs and clubs.

Asked what surprised him the most about his patrols with Night Lights, he said: “If you came from outer space, you would not believe how many people were out on a Saturday night.”

Zoe Aspinwall, the co-owner of Savannah’s bar and nightclub on Lammas Street, said she wished that numbers were as high as some people made out.

“In general, Carmarthen is nothing like it used to be,” she said.

“Going back five years there were four nightclubs with a capacity for over 2,500 people. Now we have got one nightclub for 600 people, and a smaller one for 180 people.

“The town has got a lot quieter.”

She said she was amazed when the authorities identified an anti-social problem which needed addressing.

However, she felt the presence of the taxi rank on Lammas Street was an issue, as it attracted revellers from across town late at night.

“You have taxis continually pulling up, and doors slamming,” she said.

Miss Aspinwall said Savannah’s had a 6am premises licence but that the venue closed earlier, with customers leaving in phases rather than all at once.

She also reckoned that premises could circumvent the licensing regime by applying for so-called temporary events notices, which allow for smaller-scale get-togethers without the need for a licence, providing advance notice was given.

“That has been going on for years,” she said.

Miss Aspinwall agreed that younger revellers’ habits had changed, with the majority not going out till late, and many having cars and therefore shunning alcohol.

“In my day you were lucky to get a car until you were 25!” she said.

The council invited more than 1,000 people and organisations to respond to its consultation on potential licensing restrictions. There were 36 responses.

One response said: “I am a resident and it is ridiculous the amount of shouting, urination, fighting in the early hours.”

Another resident said: “I have had drunks urinating and vomiting in my garden.”

Another respondent said the Tesco Extra store off nearby Morfa Lane should be included in any restriction, while another said pub and nightclub staff should be stricter when drunk customers asked to be served.

Others said the problem would be displaced to other streets if restrictions were implemented, but Dyfed-Powys Police said the evidence suggested otherwise.

Carmarthen taxi driver Umaar Hameed has been picking up passengers on Lammas Street for two years.

He said there was a noticeable number of people who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, as well as alcohol.

“You do feel scared,” he said.

Mr Hameed said four passengers he picked up late on New Year’s Day were talking about strangling and making hand gestures accordingly, for no apparent reason.

“Their conversation was not making any sense at all,” he said.

He also said taxi drivers felt extra responsibility to make sure people on their own, especially women, got home safely.

He added that, on the whole, people were good customers.

“Mostly they are chatty and friendly,” he said.

During the period between January 1, 2016, and March 31, 2018, nearly half the 262 alcohol-related crimes recorded between 10pm and 6am in Carmarthen town were in Lammas Street.

Over the past two years there have been 226 crimes reported in Lammas Street, three-quarters of which were between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

In addition there were 125 incidents of anti-social behaviour reported on the street between these hours.

The figures are contained in Carmarthenshire Council’s licensing policy, which now has restrictions for Lammas Street as well as for Station Road, Llanelli.

The policy said there was “clear evidence” of alcohol-related crime and disorder by people who had bought alcohol on Lammas Street.

It added that late-night food outlets were causing a greater concentration of people than would otherwise be the case, and that these issues had been raised previously during Lammas Street licence applications.

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