On October 21st City Centre Manager Andrew Cooper and his Night Time Economy Officer Jodie Smith launched the Bath Night Watch scheme at O’Neill’s, a converted Methodist chapel in Saw Close. The scheme, which has been months in preparation, offers Bath licensees a package of measures aimed at improving information sharing and communications between licensees, the police and Council officials in an effort to reduce night time rowdyness and petty crime in the city centre. Subscribing licensees, who will pay an average of about £1000 a year and could include pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels and even supermarkets, will benefit from an enhanced, integrated radio network which links licensed premises to each other, to the police, street marshals and CCTV controllers in the basement of the Guildhall so that information can be instantly exchanged on street incidents and the movements of known troublemakers. In addition, the number of street and taxi marshals patrolling the city centre will be increased and promotional material such as window stickers and beer mats will be made available to subscribers.
Late night alcohol-fuelled anti social behaviour has long been high on the list of concerns of city centre residents. Among measures which TARA has consistently pressed on Council and police officials over the past few years has been better co-ordination among those responsible for the management of the night time economy and the need to agree common standards for licensees wishing to do business in Bath. City centre residents will therefore welcome the arrival of an organisation which has the potential to replace the defunct Bath Bar Charter Group and the inactive Licensing Forum as a body capable of raising the standards of night life in Bath to the level we all expect.
There are certainly concerns, however. Though it was good to see that some 40 licensees attended the launch at O’Neill’s it was far from clear how much support there is in the city centre for Night Watch, particularly among the larger supermarkets and pub chains. Without broad support the pioneers among Bath’s licensees who have loyally and consistently supported such initiatives in the past will, yet again, feel that their larger and more powerful competitors who are immune to peer pressure are getting a free ride at their expense. It is equally unclear at this stage how Night Watch is to be managed and whether city centre residents will consulted or involved. Without resident participation there is a danger that, even it is successful, the Night Watch scheme will fail to address the issues that can make weekend nights in Bath city centre an ordeal for both residents and visitors: the noisy crowds outside night clubs in the early hours of the morning, the shouting, shrieking and brawling and the fast food litter, vomit, urine and broken windows that are all too often revealed at dawn.