Tag Archives: Night Time Economy

Pioneering harm reduction work launched

Today, Bristol starts to deliver another first in the UK – if not the world. We become the first city to take a truly coordinated approach to reducing the harm caused by drugs and alcohol in the night time economy, with a new toolkit and campaign launched to improve safety in the sector.

This latest campaign from Bristol Nights, backed Bristol City Council, Avon & Somerset Police, and a number of city partners, begins a unified, safety-first approach towards drug and alcohol use in our city.

This approach encourages venues to recognise the risks of drug and alcohol use and aims to train everyone involved in the night time economy with the information and tools to promote safe environments. In practical terms, this will likely mean supporting intoxicated people with trained staff, who can get medical assistance when needed, rather than ejecting them. As a harbour city, ensuring that our vibrant diversity of night time venues adopt and practice harm reduction will help to save lives.

Taking a One City approach to collaborating across the institutions that make up Bristol fits perfectly with other night time economy initiatives, including the award-winning Bristol Rules campaign. We’re also building on the success of other previous campaigns associated with Drink Spiking, taking a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, and delivering a Women’s Safety Charter.

It will no doubt mean challenging conversations but this city-wide approach to harm reduction really can stand apart from the venue-led approaches of other cities like Amsterdam and Zurich.  Venues on the frontline will know that all of Bristol, including the police and licensing authority, have their back in taking steps to reduce the wider harms caused by drugs. We hope that this will offer a blueprint to the sector, and cities elsewhere which are split across different licensing authorities or continue to take a zero-tolerance approach.

Bristol Nights Drug and Alcohol harm reduction guide poster. Two women looking at posters that read: 'Look Out For Your Mates', 'Know Your Highs And The Lows' and 'Take It Easy'.

Carly Heath, our Night Time Economy Advisor, and Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, are focused on working with partners to develop a human-centred approach and provide judgement-free solutions to reduce risk, while continuing to encourage people to report anyone involved in the supply of illegal drugs to local police. This approach will be supported by the first regular drug checking service of its kind, provided by The Loop.

This latest campaign is part of a series of actions being taken to improve safety in the night time economy and further delivers the Drug and Alcohol Strategy adopted in 2021.

In the past couple of weeks we have also committed over £1.2 million of grant funding over two years to provide housing support for individuals with drug and alcohol dependencies who are facing homelessness.

Whilst today’s campaign launch will focus efforts on reducing harm in the night time economy, it joins a suite of activity that aims to evolve the approach we take to deal with the impacts that drugs and alcohol have on our city.

New changes to outdoor hospitality

Expanded outdoor hospitality has been a welcome addition across Bristol in response to the pandemic. It has supported local businesses and added more colour, vibrancy, and atmosphere to the streets. Many of us have enjoyed a meal or drink while sitting out in the city over the past couple of years. However, there are a number of national changes to how businesses can operate outdoors as we move beyond the pandemic.

Hospitality and the broader night time economy support the employment of a third of our workforce – more than 91,000 people. During the pandemic, there was an incredible response from the hospitality sector to adapt to changes, particularly those around outside dining, and our council rightly took a flexible approach to help support this.

We were able to do this because of legislation that was introduced by government which allowed councils to use temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) to support outdoor hospitality, permitting structures and furniture to be set up in parking bays. Disappointingly, the government chose not to renew this legislation and it has now expired. Outdoor hospitality can still be facilitated but permissions will now need to be sought.

We understand how frustrating this is for many businesses, particularly at a time when the sector is being hit hard by inflation alongside the wider impact of the cost of living crisis. We want to support businesses to continue to operate outdoors where we can, and we want to ensure businesses are clear on what they need to do next.

On streets that have been pedestrianised or are covered by traffic orders — such as Princess Victoria Street, the Old City, Cotham Hill, and King Street — businesses with existing outside structures should apply for retrospective planning permission. If granted, then they can then apply for a structures licence and pavement licence to place furniture on the highway outside their premises. In these areas, any existing structures can remain while going through this process and no enforcement action will be taken during that time.

On all other streets, structures and furniture must be removed. Planning permission can still be applied for but we cannot legally allow existing structures to remain in the interim due to the change in national legislation set out above.

We support reclaiming road space for people, where we can. By making the policies around this more robust, we can ensure outdoor hospitality structures add value and are suitable for their surroundings, and that any structures or furniture in the road are safe and don’t impact accessibility.

Getting the relevant permissions can be a complex process as this may require approval from up to three separate regimes: Planning, Highways (for structures and pavement licences), and Licensing (for alcohol licenses). Communication with businesses has sought to set this out as simply as possible, but I recognise how confusing this can be for business owners who have so many other concerns, which is why we will be producing an overarching guidance document that explains the process clearly.

Thank you again to Bristol’s businesses for working with us on this. I encourage anyone who is unclear about what this means for them to get in touch with our business team by emailing business@bristol.gov.uk