A significant policing plan will be in place this weekend as the night-time economy reopens for the first time in three months.
Licenced premises, such as pubs and restaurants, will be able to open from Saturday providing they adhere to certain restrictions set out by the government.
A dedicated command structure will be operating throughout the weekend to ensure we keep our communities safe and respond quickly to any emerging issues or crimes.
Local authorities, which are responsible for licencing matters, have also issued guidance to businesses to ensure they operate safely and to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Superintendent Mark Edgington said: “Pubs may be reopening but it’s important everyone remembers the public health crisis is definitely not over.
“COVID-19 still presents a significant and deadly threat and everyone needs to take personal responsibility to slow down the spread of the virus and ultimately defeat it.
“We’re fully expecting this weekend to see an increase in demand for our services in comparison to recent weeks but we’d like to reassure our communities we’re tried and tested plans for policing the night time economy and these will be in place across our force area.
“These plans, as always, see us working closely with our partner agencies, including our colleagues in other emergency services and the local authority and the Security Industry Authority which regulates door staff.
“Our message to those thinking of going into town and city centres is that it will feel very different. Capacity in many places will be significantly reduced and we advise people to check in advance whether a venue will be able to accommodate them and to pre-plan travel to and from home.
“Please, if you arrive somewhere and establish that distancing isn’t achievable, reassess your plans and don’t put yourself and others at risk. And please also be aware of how excess drinking and violent behaviour may impact the emergency services at this time.”
This weekend will be the latest in a series of busy, high-demand weekends for the force during which we’ve dealt with some very significant incidents.
Last weekend saw a significant policing operation in place which also saw officers and staff working their rest days to support our communities.
Additional resources were brought in to manage protests in Bristol and Bridgwater – both of which passed by peacefully with no incidents, while officers also managed to stop unauthorised music events before they started in Bristol and Somerton.
It was also an extremely busy weekend from an operational perspective too, with an horrific stabbing incident in Weston-super-Mare, which has since claimed the life of the victim and an intelligence-led stop of two vehicles on the M5 near Wellington which saw the seizure of £140,000 cash and a large amount of class A drugs. Several arrests have been made in both cases.
Supt Edgington added: “Were we not in the middle of a pandemic we would’ve also had policing operations in place for two high profile events in Bristol – St Paul’s Carnival and the football match between Bristol City and local rivals Cardiff City.
“It’s important people remember the carnival has been cancelled this year with events instead taking place online while the football is taking place behind closed doors.
“As such, anyone thinking of marking these events are reminded that gathering indoors in groups of more than two households and outdoor gatherings in a group of more than six people from different households, is still not allowed.
“We know many of our communities have been frustrated about not being able to go out and socialise but we urge people to behave safely, responsibly, and with due regard for the public health measures in place.
“It won’t be the police’s responsibility to manage social distancing measures within businesses – including pubs – as these are guidelines and not enforceable restrictions and we’d ask people not to report concerns about guideline breaches or concerns about house parties.
“However, if you believe a rave is about to take place or are victim of a crime, or witness one happening, please call us straight away. The more time you give us the better the chance we have of intervening.
“Raves in particular are a real nuisance for our communities and while we urge property owners and landowners to do their best to secure any vulnerable sites, if we have information about an event we can confiscate equipment and issue dispersal notices before they get underway.”
Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “It is important to remember that the further lifting of restrictions this weekend is not a return to normal. We are still in the middle of a global health emergency, and our pubs and restaurants are going to look very different to what we are used to, with local businesses taking careful steps to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
“I know a lot of people have been counting down the days until they can go for a drink at their local pub, go out to eat on a weekend or get that much needed haircut. From Saturday, this will all be possible across Avon and Somerset but please think carefully and take precautions. Make sure you know how you are going to travel and check that where you are going has the capacity and facilities to accommodate you.
“I have been reassured by the Chief Constable that Avon and Somerset Police are prepared for this weekend. Public disorder, anti-social behaviour and illegal, unlicensed, street parties will not be tolerated just because the pubs have re-opened and I am confident that officers will be taking a robust approach if such issues arise.
“The last thing we want is a localised outbreak that means we have to return to restrictions when other parts of the country are lifting theirs – we’ve seen how difficult this has been for people living and working in Leicester.
Let’s all be cautious, act with common sense and ensure that all the sacrifice of the last four months does not go to waste.”