AN AWARDS scheme aimed at making Durham a safer place to drink is returning for a sixth year.

Organisers of the Best Bar None initiative say it has boosted custom at some pubs and clubs by up to half – and trade by up to three quarters, while also producing huge reductions in city centre crime.

There are prizes for the best pub, club, restaurant, college bar and more.

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This year’s awards were formally launched by Durham County Council leader Simon Henig and Durham Constabulary’s Deputy Chief Constable Michael Banks at Durham Town Hall today (Wednesday, June 26).

Councillor Henig said: “This scheme has become a highly valued part of how we manage the night time economy in Durham city centre through the strong working arrangements we’ve established with the licensees, Durham Constabulary and Durham University.

“Our licensees are reporting up to 75 per cent increases in turnover and 50 per cent increases in footfall since they started to take part in Best Bar None.

“Through this highly successful scheme we continue to work towards ensuring we can provide as safe and enjoyable an environment as possible.”

Chief Constable Mike Barton added: “This award winning scheme is a huge testament to each and every licensee that has participated in the past.

“In 2012 we saw fantastic results with violence reduced by over a half since launching Best Bar None for the first time in 2008. That was a staggering 385 fewer offences.

“We’re delighted to be able to continue running this scheme this year and look forward to building on the success we’ve already achieved together.”

At last year’s awards, Varsity, on Saddler Street, was named best bar for the second consecutive year and the overall winner. There were also honours for Head of Steam, Loveshack, Inshanghai and Grey College.

This year’s winners will be announced this autumn.

Best Bar None is a nationally recognised scheme, supported by the Home Office. Premises are offered free equipment such as drug safes and metal detectors and training on issues including conflict management and drug awareness.