'Revellers turn up to clubs in Stoke-on-Trent already drunk'
STUDENTS will be educated against the dangers of 'pre-loading' on cheap booze as community leaders continue to look at ways of improving the city centre's image.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is currently hearing evidence from police, bar owners, and health experts on the problems surrounding Hanley's night-time economy.
Yesterday the Stoke-on-Trent Community Alcohol Service told the authority that youngsters are prone to getting drunk before setting foot in a nightspot in order to save cash.
Liz Davis, a team leader for the alcohol service, said: "A lot of the students and mature students are pre-loading by getting cheap drinks in supermarkets.
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"The economy is difficult and we are seeing more people doing that. The culture is changing and more people are having parties at home and they are consuming cheap alcohol which is leading to different behaviour."
The Shelton-based service – which is funded by the Safer City Partnership – has also rolled out sessions with college students.
Liz added: "We did some events at Stoke-on-Trent College across the campuses and we have plans to do the same at Staffordshire University.
"It helps us to collect some data to see what their drinking behaviour is like and we want to work with that in order to help us be proactive."
The service has also rolled out an initiative with police where some offenders are offered the chance to undergo a series of courses about alcohol misuse rather than pay fixed penalty. Roughly 50 per cent have chosen the course.
The authority rolled out its review into the city centre's night-time trade after the number of people visiting Hanley in the evening was estimated to have plunged by more than 60 per cent in 10 years.
It comes after figures showed the police dealt with 500 incidents at 10 bars in a year. The Sentinel also revealed how 13,005 patients were admitted to A&E at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire at a cost of £1.37 million because of alcohol.
And drug workers also claim a number of revellers arrested in the city centre are found to have been taking cocaine.
Katie Davis, of the Adult Community Drug Service, which has offices across the city, said: "During the week we will see habitual drug users commit crimes such as theft and burglary.
"The weekend will see people test positive for cocaine who have been involved in a public order offence."
Suggestions were made during the session that more needs to be done to attract an older clientele to Hanley with more restaurants set up.
Staffordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis said: "Speaking to people in Stoke-on-Trent there is a perception that the Hanley area is not the sort of place families would want to go."
Councillor Matt Wilcox, below left, a former nightclub DJ, who chaired the task and finish group's special night-time Economy meeting, said: "A huge focus is attracting hotels and restaurants to create higher aspirations.
"There will be an area for families in the new city centre development.
"We are looking to improve the aesthetics and the look of the place. We are working hard to change the city centre in a positive way."