Sunday Times journalist AA Gill came to Cleethorpes at the weekend to investigate our night-time economy. Telegraph reporter James Dunn joined him, MP Martin Vickers, Humberside's Police and Crime Commissioner and the police on an evening's patrol of the resort...
OFFICIALS believe returning to the "good old days" when clubs shut earlier will solve a policing crisis after taking one of country's best known journalists to see the problems caused by weekend drinking.
Cleethorpes' MP Martin Vickers, commissioner Matthew Grove and famous Sunday Times columnist AA Gill hit the streets of Cleethorpes on Saturday night to see the problems "the night-time economy" poses to emergency services.
Columnist Adrian Gill declared a personal interest in the subject as he was an alcoholic until he was 30 years old when he stopped drinking and started writing after being "a failure at everything else" because "I was drunk all that time".
The Telegraph joined the three men as they spoke to beat police officers, taxi drivers, the Street Angels, nightclub bouncers, A and E staff, licensing officers – and they even went inside Gypsy Tears and The Bootlegger.
One of the most damning indictments on the problem came from Ian Wollisson, former taxi driver and now receptionist for AA Taxis in the High Street, who said that people they deal with "become animals" because of drink.
He said that drivers regularly have to face "runners" who do not pay their fare and "there's not really much you can do about it".
Mr Wollisson added: "The drivers have already lost one fare and they don't want to spend another two hours making a statement to the police and lose the rest of the night.
"And would the Crown Prosecution Service even prosecute over what is sometimes only a fiver? I honestly don't know the answer to this problem.
"The police presence drops off at around 3am but there are still people out drinking in places such as the Barcelona – but I understand there isn't an endless supply of officers."
The Street Angels voluntarily patrol the streets armed with flip-flops, bottled water and a smile, helping people who have had too much to drink and "become vulnerable".
Street Angel Tom Shaw, a former police officer, told the trio: "People pre-load at home because it's so much cheaper to buy booze from the supermarket and they're drunk by the time they get out at around 11pm.
"There is also a problem with drugs – cocaine, pills, amphetamine and M-Cat – but I couldn't say if this has got any worse since we started in 2010; it's just always been there."
What the Street Angels said did lead the group to discuss the price of alcohol in supermarkets, with Matthew Grove saying that minimum pricing would not solve the problem – it was up to people to "make choices".
Mr Gill disagreed, despite the fact that he's "not normally one for taxing people".
"On that basis, that people need to make choices, you could just legalise heroin and let people get on with it," he said.
Mr Grove agreed that a compromise might be to ban "loss-leaders" – where supermarkets make a loss on products such as a litre of vodka to get people through the doors on the assumption they will by other, profitable products.
Mr Vickers admitted that he hadn't been "in this part of Cleethorpes at 2am on a Sunday morning for 25 years" but said the experience was "exactly what I expected".
He added: "It's interesting to see how the agencies work together but it's also sad that we have to have so many officials out for people to have a good time.
"People used to go out to have a good time and while some of them would end up drunk, it seems now we have thousands of people going out with the intention of getting blind drunk.
"From everyone I have talked to tonight, it seems to me that if we could go back to pubs and clubs closing at 2am or 3am, it would save a lot of public money and businesses wouldn't lose out.
"I was for deregulating licensing laws, but we have to face the fact that this public experiment hasn't worked and I think local authorities should step in.
"I think I'm right in saying that the council has the power to change these closing times, but the presumption seems to be in favour of not doing so.
"I also think that supermarkets shouldn't be able to sell alcohol at a loss – although I don't believe in minimum pricing."
Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Grove, elected to apply the views of normal people to policing, arrived at a very similar conclusion.
He said: "One thing that is very obvious after talking to people is that they feel the police presence drops at 3am yet many premises stay open past that time.
"That is when they feel most at risk but most of the time there won't be a problem, so it is difficult for us, with limited resources, to prepare for that."
Mr Grove earlier joked with Mr Wollisson that "you can't keep police officers in the future" when he told the commissioner that "you can never know when something is going to happen".
The commissioner continued: "It seems to me that people have a set number of hours in which they can enjoy themselves as people would go out earlier in the good old days when pubs shut at 11pm and all clubs shut at 2am.
"But because places are open later now, people pre-load with cheap supermarket alcohol, stay out until all hours and make our streets and our A&E wards a no-go area for many people.
"A return to pubs and clubs shutting earlier, at the same time, could help us solve the crisis that we find our emergency services in.
"The truth is that we cannot afford to provide a quality policing service that will keep everyone safe if this continues."
As for AA Gill, the controversial journalist will be revealing what he thought of his visit in his column in The Sunday Times.