Pubs and bars across Newcastle have been praised by police after plain clothed officers were deployed in the city centre.
Thousands of new students descended on the region for the start of the new university term this weekend with many of them leaving home for the very first time.
It also marked the start of Freshers’ Week and saw the fresh-faced teenagers travel in to Newcastle city centre for their first night out.
But they weren’t the only ones to take to sample what the city had to officer on Friday and Saturday night.
That’s because Northumbria Police launched the first operation of its kind in the region – and deployed plain-clothed officers across the city.
As part of Operation Ebrius, the officers had been tasked with carrying out spot-checks on seven licenced premises to see how they dealt with vulnerability.
In particular, they wanted to observe whether door staff allowed entry to any partygoers who were heavily intoxicated, and whether bar staff served them more alcohol.
Those bars who were spot-checked by police included The Mile Castle, Mushroom Bar, Eden Gate, Perdu, Madame Koos, Soho Rooms and Junction.
And Today Newcastle city centre’s top cop has praised staff at the premises – after all seven passed with flying colours.
Newcastle city centre Chief Inspector, Steve Wykes, said: “Safeguarding vulnerable people is our top priority and the results of this operation are very pleasing.
“There is a fantastic atmosphere in Newcastle city centre on the weekend and I am sure the new students who arrived here on Friday will love their time in the North East.
“But excessive alcohol consumption can be dangerous for a number of reasons and we need our city centre partners to work together with us to keep people safe.
“We do a lot of training with licenced premises about vulnerability and it was very pleasing to see that all seven of the bars we visited were operating in a responsible manner.
“Those who were heavily intoxicated were refused entry and door staff made sure they were able to get to a place of safety.
“We didn’t come across any bars who served alcohol to those clearly under the influence of alcohol and that was again one of the main aims of the operation.
“This operation will take place again in the coming weeks and we are not afraid to deploy undercover officers to help ensure our night time economy is a safe place.
“I hope the public are reassured by the commitment of police, partners and these licenced premises, to safeguard those who find themselves in vulnerable situations in our city.”
Operation Ebrius was launched in partnership with Newcastle City Council, the licenced premises and Newcastle University.
It took place the same weekend that Universities UK (UUK) launched a national report to raise awareness of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.
Cllr Nick Kemp, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for the Environment and Regulatory Services, said he was “delighted with the outcomes of the operation”.
He said: “The Licensing Authority at Newcastle City Council has worked closely with Northumbria Police, Newcastle University and colleagues in Public Health over recent months to introduce measures to improve the safety of people enjoying the city’s night-time economy.
“With their collaboration we recently introduced the Newcastle Licensing Charter which will reward licensed premises for going above and beyond their licensing conditions.
“On the evidence of Operation Ebrius it appears as though licensees are making a real effort to engage with this and make sure people are enjoying themselves responsibly and I’m delighted with the outcomes of the operation.
“The new academic year always bring an influx of people who are new to the city and it is pleasing for us to know they are being met with premises that set the right example from the very beginning of term.”
Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, Professor Chris Day, said: “There are 50,000 students in Newcastle and it is fantastic to see our city pulling together to help keep them safe.
“As a university, it is part of our role to educate our students to be responsible and look after each other, but licensed premises also have a role to play and we are pleased to see that the plain clothes work being carried out has been a success.”
Officers from Northumbria Police will also have their own stall at Freshers’ Fairs this week and also delivering a lecture to first-year students in the city.
Operation Ebrius is just the latest initiative to be introduced by Northumbria Police to help tackle vulnerability in Newcastle’s night time economy.
Officers conduct high visibility patrols throughout the city centre while officers are also based in the Safe Haven van alongside staff from St John’s Ambulance to act as a hub for anyone who needs support.
Taxi drivers, hotel staff and door supervisors have also received extensive and compulsory safeguarding training so they can spot the signs of vulnerability and report it to police.
Earlier this summer Northumbria Police also became the first Force in the country to utilise Virtual Reality (VR) technology to educate people about how they can look after each other.
To find out more advice on how to spot the signs of vulnerability visit the Northumbria Police website or the Force’s social media pages.