Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Inside the night time economy

Another Countdown 2009 group today, concerning itself with making the city's public realm cleaner, seeking to set standards that will equal those that will be set by the managers of the new shopping mall being built at present. During the construction phase, it's notable the attention given to cleaning up around the periphery of the site, with so many vehicles coming and going. Other parts of the city centre need fresh efforts to keep down the mess routinely produced day in day out by consumers totally unconcerned about what they throw away, whether it's chewing gum, cigarette ends, fast food or drinks containers or packaging from newly purchased products.

There's a huge and successful effort made by cleansing teams on match days. This isn't so easy to replicate on a day by day basis, because the everyday reasons why mess is made are complex. Not enough waste bins in the right places is one reason. Businesses leaving out their wheelie bins at the wrong times, and end up overfull, and un-emptied, because a collection has been missed is another. There's a lot of patient vigilance required to keep ahead of the task, in the absence of a real culture shift which results in every citizen taking responsibility for their own rubbish, and ensuring that it ends up in the right destination.

It was interesting to hear from the city centre night time operations manager about the chill wind of recession blowing in clubland, with some clubs seeing their revenue cut by nearly half, although this could also be to do with the decline in popularity of some venues and the rise in others. Violence on-street rises in the early hours of the morning, problems are caused by clubs and bars ignoring the official regulations to clear away their on-street tables and stop serving people out of doors after 11.00pm at night. We were shown photos taken at 1.30 in the morning, with outdoor drinkers still at it as if it was early evening. When people are both drunk and tired at that time of night, fights can start and the furniture left out gets used as weapons. The regulations of licensed premises are practical and well thought out. When adhered to, there's little trouble. Clubs losing money are prone to cut corners in the hope of increasing popularity and profits, but this can backfire if they end up losing their licenses because of violence on their patch.

Yesterday I had a call from a young woman who lives in an apartment on St Mary Street in a block whose residents suffer greatly from the clamour of revellers and hooting taxis in the small hours, across the weekend. She was troubled to learn that a neighbourhood convenience store was applying for a liquor license extension that would enable it to sell alcohol eighteen hours a day, and was asking my support to raise the matter with the licensing authorities. I went and checked out what she'd told me, and wrote a letter of objection to the local government officer responsible for applications. As my contribution was late, almost on the deadline, I wondered if it would be allowed, but I was reassured to find an acknowledgement in my in-box this evening, indicating that I was just in time.

It just amazes me that anyone should want to sell booze at two o'clock in the morning from Thursday to Sunday. Such drinkers as remain are for the most part in the clubs or wandering between them, or leaving town to go home, probably drunk and wanting to sleep. Some may like to pretend Cardiff is a 24 hour city, but in reality this is not the case for the vast majority of people, most of the time. I for one will be glad when we have enough of a recession to drive people to consume far less, far less often, and to revert to more natural rhythms of life work and recreation. It will reduce the overall health care bill for certain.

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