Top cop slams Preston nightclub for becoming first in UK to reopen as city 'on the cusp' of lockdown
A TOP cop has slammed a night club after it became the first in Britain to re-open during the coronavirus crisis – just six miles away from the lockdown zone.
Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods, of Lancashire Police, said it was “not helpful at all” for Switch in Preston to allow hundreds of drinkers back through its doors at the weekend.
Locals are furious at the move after Preston City Council gave bosses the green light on Saturday.
Footage shows revellers stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the busy club where punters paid up to £200-a-ticket.
DDC Woods said to "open a venue of 500 young people with drink is just not helpful at all".
[To] open a venue of 500 young people with drink is just not helpful at all
He added that the move was irresponsible as Preston was "on the cusp of restrictions this week", the BBC reports.
The senior officer explained that a forum of leaders in the Lancashire were now discussing the re-opening "so that doesn't happen again".
In a statement Switch’s owners said they had always planned to get the club back open but as a bar – rather than a nightclub.
They explained: “It is, and has always been, our intention to reopen and repurpose Switch to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience… even if it's as a bar.”
'ON THE CUSP'
It comes just days after millions in nearby Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire were hit with new lockdown rules.
Yesterday a major incident was declared in Greater Manchester after coronavirus infection rates rocketed.
Mayor Andy Burnham called for a return to shielding, while senior figures from the police, local authorities and public health chiefs scrambled an emergency ‘gold command’ meeting to ramp up the region’s response to the outbreak.
Infection rates for the week to last Thursday – when the new measures were introduced – show cases per 100,000 people still rising in every part of the conurbation.
Those in Manchester and Tameside have more than doubled in seven days, while Oldham's remain the highest and the fastest-growing.
NIGHT CLUB FURY
Furious Preston residents blasted the nightclub for reopening.
"Someone explain how you allowed this to continue last night? How? Why? An absolute shambles," one woman posted on Twitter.
Another said the council's decision to approve the reopening was an "absolute joke".
"Virtually the whole of Preston was sent text messages saying to not have visitors in our homes because we are on the verge of a second wave and a bloody nightclub opens," a woman posted on Facebook.
"Do we really think after drinking all night they will adhere to social distancing?"
However, some supported the nightclub reopening.
"If Yates and Wetherspoons can open so can they," one person wrote online.
"So excited! It'll be open until 4! It deserves to be open," another posted.
Preston City Council made a last-minute U-turn on Saturday to allow Switch to reopen, despite saying just hours earlier that it couldn't.
"Following fresh external Counsel advice, Preston City Council has just informed Switch that despite yesterday’s clear Government guidance to the contrary, they are legally able to reopen," the council said in an official statement about 7pm last night.
Councillor Peter Moss said the council "sought expert external legal advice" on Switch's reopening.
"This advice has just come back to inform us that Switch is legally able to repurpose and reopen accordingly," he said.
"This is on the strict basis that Switch proceeds with the agreed safety precautions and do not allow dancing in the venue, the venue is now free to reopen this evening.
"We appreciate this is a very different position to what we announced earlier. Officers have been working tirelessly to resolve the situation in the best way.
"We do ask all patrons who attend to take the safety precautions very seriously, to prevent further spread of coronavirus in Preston."
Councillor Freddie Bailey said it was "irresponsible" for Switch to reopen.
"Preston is having a spike [in coronavirus cases]. Obviously they're legally allowed to open, we didn't want them to open, but because of government advice there's nothing to stop them opening," he said.
"We sought external advice and that's what the advice came back with."
He said Preston residents upset about the nightclub reopening should be "angry at central government".
NIGHTCLUBS 'MUST REMAIN SHUT'
Earlier this month, Boris Johnson said nightclubs must remain shut despite coronavirus lockdown measures easing – but live indoor concerts will be able to resume with socially-distanced audiences from August 1.
Despite the rules, Switch announced on social media that it would be reopening.
"We know you have all been waiting… the beast is back!" the nightclub posted on Facebook.
Switch claims it will have a lower capacity in all four of their rooms to help with social distancing while both standing and sitting customers have to buy tickets online.
"Things will be a little different but we have a full roster of amazing live entertainment over four rooms," Switch posted on Facebook.
The night out doesn't come cheap – tickets start from £10 with the club charging up to £200 for 'VIP' night out in Preston.
Revellers have been told to arrive at designated times to ease queues and to follow one-way paths once inside.
The club plans to now be open on Fridays and Saturdays.
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "It's very difficult to open nightclubs, dance halls and discos safely – so for now the law in England is that they must stay closed."
The Sun Online has contacted Switch nightclub and the Preston City Council for comment.
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