A POLICE chief has welcomed a move to halt breakfast boozing at a city pub before the derby clash.
Chief Superintendant Dave Pryer said opening The Colliery Tavern from 10.30am ahead of next Sunday’s 1.30pm kick-off would hamper efforts to stamp out booze-fuelled violence before the game.
The Colliery Tavern had been awarded a temporary event notice to open early by Sunderland City Council’s licensing sub-committee.
But police successfully challenged the ruling yesterday at Sunderland Magistrates Court.
Welcoming the decision, Mr Pryer said: “Our objection to the ruling formed part of a much wider preventative strategy.
“Public safety has got to be our number one priority.
“For this operation, we are policing from 7am in the city centres of Sunderland and Newcastle, as well as the transport infrastructure and overseeing the arrival of the coaches.
“Then there is the small job of the fixture itself before we move on to dispersal. This is not a normal football match, it is a force-wide operation.”
District Judge Elsey said police were already stretched to capacity by the crunch fixture and increasing the availability of early-morning booze would undermine their strategy for ensuring the safety of supporters.
Two other pubs, the River Bar, in Bonemill Lane, Washington, and Establishment, in Low Row, Sunderland, will discover today whether they will be allowed to open their doors early for the fixture.
After hearing submissions from both the police and council, District Judge Elsey upheld the appeal.
He said: “What is the purpose of having the kick-off at an early time?
“It is to reduce violence and that is negated if the pubs are able to open earlier and sell alcohol.”
He added: “Insufficient weight has been given to the scale of the violence which, regrettably, is now a feature of the Sunderland versus Newcastle derby match.
“The scale of violence on derby day is almost beyond the capacity of police to contain and alcohol is clearly a factor.”
After the hearing, Colliery Tavern licensee John Snaith said: “I think I have been punished for other people’s problems.”