Raising a glass to Best Bar None venues

Go Houghton and Dunstable Leisure Centre were raising a glass after scooping the honours at this year’s Central Bedfordshire Best Bar None awards.

Go Houghton was a clear winner in the People’s Choice category, while Dunstable Leisure Centre was chosen for the top prize by an independent judging panel including Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins.

The two venues picked up their prizes in front of a large crowd including Central Bedfordshire ward councillors and Dunstable Mayor Cllr Liz Jones at a ceremony held at the Grove Theatre, in Dunstable, on Tuesday evening (10 November).

Go Houghton and last year’s winner Club Cookies were runners-up in the main category, with Dunstable Leisure Centre and Club Cookies runners-up in the People’s Choice award.

Go Houghton picked up an amazing 42.4 per cent, or 335 of the 790 votes cast in the People’s Choice award, with Club Cookies and Dunstable Leisure Centre each claiming 100 nominations – or 12.7 per cent of the vote.

Councillor Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “People may be surprised that a leisure centre has won the main prize, but it is an incredibly popular place for people to stop and have a drink and something to eat after they have used the facilities there.

“Best Bar None is open to all licensed premises, and if the leisure centre is hosting an event there could be as many as 1,500 people there – making it the largest venue in the town that evening offering alcohol.

“Judges were particularly impressed with the work that the leisure centre does with the community, its strict anti-drugs policy, the fact it provides staff with crime prevention training and that it offers customers with a safe place to wait at the end of the evening for their taxi.”

Mr Martins said: “Bedfordshire Police and local licensees have a mutual interest in having a safe night-time economy, and that is what Best Bar None promotes.

“I thoroughly commend the work that Central Bedfordshire Council has put into developing Best Bar None in Dunstable and Houghton Regis and the growing number of licensees that have signed up to participate. It is partnerships such as this that will help to keep our county as safe as possible even if police funding is reducing.”

Roberto Giacobbe of Dunstable Leisure Centre said: “I was asked to apply for the Best Bar None accreditation by Central Bedfordshire Police due to the late-night events we hold at Dunstable Leisure Centre.

“I found the audit to be challenging at times as it was mainly directed at the local bars and clubs, and I had to update many of our policies and procedures which took some time.

“It was a real eye-opener as I learnt a lot along the way in how to keep my premises safe whilst offering good practice and excellent customer service.

“The awards evening was a bigger shock as I never expected to win three awards, including the overall winner.”

Kishor Patel, owner of Go Houghton, said: “We were absolutely thrilled, firstly to be accredited for Best Bar None, secondly to be runners-up for the Best Bar None and finally to win the People’s Choice vote.

“This is a great endorsement for our investment in quality, standards, service and best practice. We would have not achieved any of these without the support from the great team at Go and most of all the support from our new and regular customers.

“In less than six months since Go Houghton opened we have made over thousand friends on social media, received a five-star rating from the Food Standards Agency for hygiene and had fantastic reviews and feedback on Facebook and Trip Advisor.”

This year was the second year Best Bar None has been run in Central Bedfordshire, and after the 2014 pilot in Dunstable proved a success, it was extended to Houghton Regis.

Nine venues were shortlisted for the awards, with Creasey Park Community Centre, Go Bowling, the White Lion, the First & Last, the Gary Cooper and the Bird in Hand also in the running.

Best Bar None aims to make towns and cities great places to go out by making pubs, clubs and leisure venues even more welcoming places for visitors.

By improving safety for customers and staff through reducing binge drinking and alcohol-related crime and disorder, and encouraging licensees to work with enforcement agencies, the scheme aims to boost improve the night-time economy for everyone.

So, Best Bar None is win-win for everyone: customers get a better night out, towns and cities become more vibrant places as people want to go there and that has economic benefits for pubs and clubs there.

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