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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March 2004, 20:44 GMT
Dealing with excessive drinking
As concern grows over the impact of binge-drinking on health and public order, the government has called for innovative ideas to tackle the problem.

BBC News Online's Daniel Mann looked at three urban areas that have already put schemes in place to deal with the consequences of Britain's drinking culture.


Like many places, Manchester city centre has seen a revolution in the way its pubs are run.

Larger chain establishments have sprung up with fewer seats, loud music and special promotions.

Although popular with younger drinkers happy to stand in crowded areas, this has alienated a number of other age groups looking for a quieter night out.

Police officer in Manchester
Manchester police are working with pubs and clubs

Police also say there are too many people hitting the streets after closing time and too much crime is alcohol-related.

But since Greater Manchester Police introduced the Citysafe scheme, late-night disorder in the city centre has fallen by more than 12%.

Establishments that fall short of good practice are placed on a 'top 10' list and attract close police attention.

Posters remind people to drink safely, taxi marshals patrol cab stands and bus wardens - with police radio links - keep a watchful eye on late-night services that ensure clubbers get home safely.

The 'Manchester Best Bar None' award aims to promote good practice in pub management and lay-out.

Inspector Steven Greenacre says the 59 bars praised under the scheme have not only raised standards.

"The award means establishments are promoted in tour guides, leaflets and the media. We also offer advice on what constitutes a good pub and, as a result some have managed to reduce disorder by 75%," he said.


The city has had more than its fair share of alcohol-related tragedies.

In just four months, three young men all died as a result of excessive drinking - one a 17-year-old out celebrating his birthday.

These events led to the creation of the Safe and Sound project, better known as the SOS Bus.

Every Friday and Saturday night until 3am, the 50-ft bendi-bus is a refuge for revellers whose night out may have taken a turn for the worse.

Staffed by nine trained volunteers, including members of the St John's Ambulance, the bus has assisted youths as young as 12.

The SOS bus - the first and only of its kind in the country - carries all the necessary first aid equipment and two beds.

Photograph of the SOS Bus
The SOS Bus in Norwich helps vulnerable people after a night out
And a minibus travels the city centre picking up anyone who may be injured or in distress - they may have lost their money, mobile phone or have become separated from their friends.

The service costs 55,000 a year, currently met by central government, and fundraising is under way to keep the bus running when this money runs out in August.

PC Colin Lang is the project's development manager and a Youth and Community Safety Officer with Norwich police.

He says 75% of those who come to the bus need medical assistance and some cases are life threatening.

"I can't prove on paper that we've saved lives but I know as a team we have, just by the type of people we've dealt with," he said.

He would like to see the scheme taken up elsewhere, and called for the government and drinking industry to support such projects financially.

"I would like to see pubs and clubs fund the bus. If a club wants to refuse entry or remove someone, if a person isn't violent or in need of an ambulance, they quite often come to us.

"The drinks industry must also stop irresponsible promotions like buy one, get one free," he added.


Pubwatch has been operating in York for ten years and part of it requires anyone serving alcohol to carry a pager.

They must use this to transmit any information about potential troublemakers, whether groups or individuals, and thefts.

This is sent to the police but also means pubs and clubs can work together much more closely to prevent crime and disorder.

York used to be known as a Jekyll and Hyde city
PC David Boag
The scheme also involves training door staff, who must register with North Yorkshire police.

PC David Boag works in the city's licensing unit and says Pubwatch has ended the city's notorious dual nature.

"York used to be known as a Jekyll and Hyde city. Tourists would come out during the day but at night avoid it.

"The licensees weren't trained or door staff regulated. People would go from pub to pub with glasses and pubs would close at the same time. There were flashpoints with the most popular pubs on the same street."

This has now all changed, he says: "They are more spread out and close at different times, with seven pubs closing at 2am on Friday and Saturday nights."

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