Police and traders meeting called to deal with ‘Wild West’ Thursday nights in Ramsgate

Karen Constantine and Mark Kenneally in Harbour Street Photo Dave Stillman

Smashed windows, abuse and the fall-out of people bingeing on cheap drinks for ‘Thirsty Thursday’ will be discussed at a meeting between businesses and police this month.

Organised by County Councillor Karen Constantine, the aim of the gathering at Zest cafe on January 23 is to crackdown on vandalism and violence in Ramsgate’s Harbour Street and lower town centre.

Business owners who have had to fork out due to constant damage want more police patrols, especially Thursday nights into Friday mornings, a change in licensing to ban  £1 a drink booze ups and are asking pubs to use their security staff to make sure streets are cleared of revellers when they lock up.

Meetings held in 2017 to discuss similar issues resulted in action including 48 hour dispersal orders and patrols targeting ‘hotspots.’. But traders say trouble is now worse than ever, despite the area being covered by a Public Spaces Protection Order giving police and enforcement officers extra powers.

Mark Kenneally is joint owner, with aunt Julie Young, of The Daily Grind in Harbour Street. His partner Lauren Ryan is manager.

In their first seven weeks in charge of the café they had their windows smashed twice.

Mark Kenneally says cheap drinks on a Thursday night are the cause of many problems in the town

Mark, 35, said: “It can be scary out there sometimes and I can look after myself. The police need to deal with this. We need more officers and we need to stop £1 drinks. Everywhere else- London, Newcastle – has stopped this but not Ramsgate. People even come down from London for a £29 hotel room and the cheap drinks

“The police need to target this area and clean it up. The damage costs money and for businesses here that is a big blow. It makes me angry that we are working hard but just not getting any help.”

Cllr Constantine said: “We are back to square one with no progress. We need a proper plan of action and I want police to listen to residents and businesses. Pubs could close the doors earlier and make security responsible for dispersal. We need regular meetings and more policing.

“I have been told by a DCI that Thanet has a maximum of 19 officers across Thanet and that includes those at the station, which means it is not even 19 pairs of boots on the ground. We need action, Ramsgate is getting like the wild west.”

Sergeant Steve Moat, from the Thanet Community Safety Unit, said: ‘Kent Police is committed to reducing anti-social behaviour in Ramsgate and regularly speaks to businesses and residents to hear their concerns and carry out proportionate enforcement action.

‘A Public Space Protection Order has been put in place which covers the Central Harbour and Eastcliff wards – which includes Harbour Street – and this allows us extra powers to deal with issues that may arise, including issuing £80 fixed penalty notices.

‘Officers also carry out regular checks at licensed premises to ensure licensing conditions are being met.”

Report incidents via 101, or 999 if a crime is in progress or online at the Kent Police website.

Traders views

Jim Brady, from Heaven and Hell gifts in Harbour Street, says blood outside his store is a regular occurrence as well as finding his shop windows smashed.

He said: “We see the PCSO but the officer is probably only here once a month. Pubs need to take some responsibility and police need to be here and monitor what happens,

“I’ve seen one lad with two people kicking him in the head and nothing happens because police say it isn’t reported or they don’t have a victim.

“We have empty shops, shops with boarded up windows and even the takeaway has a security guard now.”

Ramsgate couple Tyler Turner and Chris Clemson have been running Zest in Queen Street since September. They have suffered broken windows, had abuse hurled at them and their customers and say the behaviour of some youths also causes problems.

Tyler, 23, has been in the hospitality trade since she was 15. She said: “Some places need to be stricter on serving people who are already drunk, they need to say enough is enough. I don’t think £1 drinks are responsible drinking and perhaps places could close a bit earlier. We also need a bigger police presence and they need more funding.”

Pubs taking action

Thorley Taverns Ltd is just one of several operators in the Ramsgate town area. The company does not run a ‘Thirsty Thursday’ promotion. It does have a student offer of seven products at a set price for the duration of the evening which is aimed at cost savings for the customer but also limits the number of drinks per customer.

Operations manager Craig Knight said all pubs run by the company work closely with police and local authorities to prevent anti-social behaviour on the streets around those businesses.

He said: “We take responsible drinking very seriously and do not offer any promotions or ‘deals’ that even come close to us breaching the conditions of our premises licence.  We have been liaising with Kent Police closely over the past few years to assist them in reducing the levels of anti-social behaviour.
“We encourage responsible drinking in all of our venues. Any promotions that we run adhere to the mandatory conditions of our licence in that they do not encourage the drinking of alcohol within a time limit, we do not offer alcohol for free and our marketing does not glamorise alcohol consumption.”

Mr Knight said certain venues have security staff who stay on site at least an hour after closing to ensure customers have dispersed and incidents of antisocial behaviour re reported to police or the CCTV control room.

Thorley Taverns is not the only pub operator in the town but as the biggest kindly agreed to share their insight with The Isle of Thanet News.