DRINKERS can still booze until breakfast after a 24-hour bar in Burnley escaped censure from councillors.

Police had wanted Blu Bar, in Cow Lane, to be closed at 5am, claiming it was a magnet for trouble, with even dawn street sweepers running the gauntlet of drunken yobs.

One taxi driver, Mohammed Afzal, said customers ‘walked up like zombies’ and cabbies had to go into ‘survival mode’ to flee a ‘war zone’.

But licensee Frank Musso told councillors he had hired three extra security staff, out of his own pocket, to ‘police’ the streets around the venue.

He said: “It is financially crippling because I think it is over and above our responsibility.

“In terms of putting people into taxis and getting them home, it’s almost like we are babysitting for the rest of the town centre.”

And after a marathon seven-hour hearing at Burnley Town Hall, members of the borough’s licensing sub-committee agreed with the bar boss and refused the hours restriction.

Coun Anne Kelly, committee chair, said the police evidence had failed to establish a ‘casual connection’ between the Blu Bar and crime and disorder problems in the Cow Lane area.

Divisional licensing sergeant Michelle Dixon had earlier detailed around 40 incidents which she and the force had linked to the club over the past year.

But the bar’s counsel, Sarah Clover, and licensing representative Gill Sherratt, repeatedly challenged the origins of a stream of assault and public order incidents police had linked to the premises.

Ms Sherratt said of the 16 incidents inside the club, eight involved people being legally ejected and there were three thefts and one criminal damage offence.

“The correct figure is four assaults over a 14-month period, and to say that is an exemplary record for premises of this kind, in my opinion, is an understatement,” she added.

Police and club bosses also clashed over an 18th birthday party in February which later turned out to be a 16th birthday bash – but still went ahead at the premises.

Richard Williams, representing Lancashire Police, questioned whether the event – which saw door staff seize 50 or 60 cans of beer, 10 litres of vodka and a bottle of Sambucca from youngsters coming in – should have been abandoned.

But Mr Musso said that decision would have left ‘200 people on the streets’ and he still thought he had made the right choice.