Visitors asked how to boost city centre
CITY councillors went out on the town at the weekend – to find ways of improving Hanley's nightlife.
They were in the city centre into the early hours of Saturday to try to learn why violent crime is rising and the continental cafe culture has not reached Hanley.
It is part of a review of Hanley's so-called night-time economy by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
The councillors attended a police briefing before speaking to theatre-goers, drinkers, taxi marshals and street pastors about a number of issues.
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They wanted to know what people think Stoke-on-Trent has to offer and what they would like to see more of.
The majority of people spoke about the lack of restaurants, fears of violent crime and late-night drinking and parking charges.
Councillor Matt Wilcox, who is leading the review as chairman of the authority's city renewal scrutiny committee, said: "The point of this trip was to try to find out a bit about what the visitors enjoy. During the visit we found that a lot of people had come from outside of the city, but that they are also coming straight in and going straight home.
"But we want to keep people in the city centre and get them spending money."
Mr Wilcox, who is a former DJ, added: "I came out of the nightclub scene about 10 years ago because it was getting a lot harder to get people to stay in the city.
"And I don't think that was specific to Stoke-on-Trent, there was – and still is – a general downward trend and because Stoke-on-Trent is so small, it's suffered.
"In addition to that, it has seen increased competition from places like Newcastle."
It is estimated that 10,000 people used to go to Hanley on Friday and Saturday nights around 10 years ago. But that figure has now dropped to an average of 2,000 visitors.
Councillor Alastair Watson added: "It is a concern that people are visiting the city and then going home straight away.
"We need to do more to introduce things we are lacking such as more live music."
Members of the review group have already pledged to lobby for bars currently allowed to stay open until 4am to have their opening times cut by at least two hours.
New Government powers have given councils the power to restrict the times pubs and clubs can sell alcohol.
The council's decision to carry out a review follows a Sentinel investigation which found more than 500 police incidents were linked to just 10 city centre nightspots in a year. Latest figures show violent crime in Hanley has also risen from 142 incidents between April and June last year to 166 this year.
Amie Pine, aged 25, of Burslem, does not believe crime is putting people off.
She said: "When I was younger I used to go out in Hanley every week. But now I don't really go out there anymore because there's not really anywhere decent that stays open late. If a nice new bar opened I might be tempted.
"I've never felt unsafe in Hanley, because there's always lots of police on the main streets."