Manchester: once famed for the Hacienda scene and now playing host to dance powerhouse Sankeys, Canal Street’s unabashed revelry, a frenetic student scene and numerous fashionable cocktail joints.
No other city centre boasts nightlife quite as diverse, with 100,000 merrymakers frequenting more than 500 licensed premises during a typical weekend night.
Widen the net to include the 493 square miles which make up Greater Manchester, and the number of drinking dens vying for your time and money becomes 4,081.
Manchester’s night-time economy may be booming, but the crowds a 24-hour alcohol drinking experience attracts inevitably impact on crime.
Despite Greater Manchester Police seeing year-on-year crime reduction, MM has discovered in 2012 police were still called to pubs, nightclubs and bars a staggering 26,414 times.
An average of 72 for each day the figures cover, this represents a 7% drop from the 81 daily calls 2011 saw.
South Yorkshire, which has a population of around half of Greater Manchester’s and covers Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, averaged just ten per day.
This data, unearthed through a Freedom of Information request, also names the establishments to which officers are called out most frequently – with the highest five unsurprisingly all city centre venues.
Topping the figures for 2012 was Tiger Tiger, with 280 call-outs, although 5th Avenue was close behind with 243.
Revolution Deansgate Locks, New York New York and Factory251 also made the list with more than one hundred calls apiece.
But Tiger Tiger, the only venue to respond to MM’s request for a statement, insist the statistics are not an accurate indication of crime levels.
A spokesman said their landmark Printworks location means the club is frequently used as a reference point, with the majority of calls not connected to the premises.
“The statistics do not reflect in any way crime and police issues in Tiger Tiger, which has enviably been given the ‘Best Bar None’ award for four years running in recognition of its status as Manchester’s safest and best-run venue,” she said.
“Tiger Tiger is Manchester’s busiest club, drawing 700,000 customers through the door each year with its reputation built on high standards and extremely low levels of crime.”
In 2012 calls across Greater Manchester were triggered most frequently by rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour, with an average of ten each day relating to this offence alone.
Also high were call-outs concerning to suspicious circumstances, numbering 2,573, robbery and thefts 2,180 and assault cases 1,981.
Nearly all crimes listed have seen a reduction since 2011, with drug-related crimes and sexual offences and indecency both dropping by a quarter.
Greater Manchester Police Superintendent Stuart Ellison has responsibility for the policing of the city centre and said the vast majority of revellers have no need for GMP’s support.
“The demands on police services outlined relate to a relatively small number of issues including arguments, mobile phone theft or simple misunderstandings,” he said.
“Our licensing staff examine every call to ensure we have delivered the right support and our work with other agencies continues to address the right issues.”
But for the victims of nightclub assault, alcohol’s effects mean it can be difficult to bring police charges to fruition as one young professional from Cheshire discovered.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous, was hit with a glass bottle in an incident at South nightclub which left him with six stitches.
“I was dancing and I accidentally knocked into someone behind me, with the man taking offence and squaring up to me,” he said.
“As I was apologising his mate bit me on the arm, so I pushed him away.
“My friend and walked away, but as we did one of the men bottled me from behind.
He left the club for the hospital but said police never got in touch after taking an initial statement.
The nature of the attack and the fact he’d been drinking meant he found it difficult to accurately describe his attacker.
“I was dazed and confused – the police were trying their best but there wasn’t much they could do – I just wanted to forget the whole thing,” he said.
The man said incidents of this kind happen often and are frequently not reported to police, indicating a culture of violence among some clubbers.
“What happened to me wasn’t a one off,” he said.
“I know there are people who go out looking for fights – it’s pretty intense, but it’s all too common.
“But it’s not in my frame of mind to feel unsafe when I go out, and I always try to walk away to avoid confrontation.”
One Manchester bartender, who wished to remain anonymous, told MM that the police presence is fantastic for dealing with the occasional problems which do arise, but that the onus for preventing crime should always rest with venues.
“The places which never seem to have trouble are, not coincidentally, the ones with the most alert, well-trained bar staff and a good door team,” he said.
He said many bars now employ a policy of offering water before it is asked for, in order to help people stay in control.
“It’s about being pre-emptive by noticing when people are getting too drunk rather than trying to deal with trouble once things are already out of hand,” he added.
As a cocktail specialist the bartender feels it is a shame glass-switching schemes have to happen but acknowledges they can be effective in reducing risk.
In December MM reported Denton and Reddish MP Andrew Gwynne called for Manchester bars and nightclubs to support a scheme to switch from glass to plastic as part of an urgent discussion on glass and bottle-related violence.
“No one is suggesting a blanket ban and nor do we want to put an extra burden on pubs, bars and clubs when the economy is already struggling,” said Mr Gwynne.
Picture courtesy of GMP, with thanks.