POLICE worry crime could increase in the city centre if a gay club is allowed to stay open and sell booze later.

Plush, which is based in Frewin Court, off Cornmarket Street, has asked for permission to sell alcohol until 3.30am on Fridays and Saturdays. It also wants to close at 4am on those days.

Next week its owners will ask Oxford city councillors to change the terms of the licence formerly used by Purple Turtle, which closed last year and operated in the Frewin Court building.

But police have said they are concerned opening the club later would mean more crime and disorder in the city centre.

They say Oxford is ‘struggling to find a balance between an ever-increasing demand' for staying out later 'and the effects it can have in the streets’. Plush’s application would make things worse, they add.

In a report, the force stress that Plush’s owners are a ‘positive example of a responsible operator’. But they say they cannot support the venue being opened later.

If the city council gives Plush permission for what it wants next week, it would be able to stay open for longer than any other city centre club or pub. It would join two other clubs in the city which are allowed to sell alcohol until 3.30am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Currently, just Varsity, in High Street, and Cirkus, in George Street, can sell alcohol until 3.30am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Most clubs can decide when they close but must stop selling alcohol at a certain point.

Oxford’s largest club, Atik, in Park End Street, has capacity for 1,200 people. It must stop selling alcohol on Fridays and Saturdays at 3am. Plush has capacity for 360 people.

A Thames Valley Police report will be seen by the city council’s licensing and gambling acts casework sub-committee on Tuesday. It states giving Plush permission would go against the council’s own City Centre Special Saturation Policy (SSP).

The SSP covers the central area of the city centre. It includes New Road, Park End Street, some of Broad Street and Brewer Street and Paradise Street.

The police state: “We recognise that there is a wish within the public to be able to go out and enjoy the consumption of alcohol and regulated entertainment in a safe and pleasant environment.”

But they Plush’s plans would be ‘likely add to issues in the night time economy and erode the SPP.’

Last year, the police made similar points when Plush said it wanted to move from a base in Park End Street to a place in the same street. The application was made to the city council but was pulled before it was due to be heard by the committee.

Officers also worry a proposed cut of three bouncers included in Purple Turtle’s licence to ‘a minimum’ of two on all days at Plush is a potential concern.

They state: “The night time economy is no longer the preserve of just Fridays and Saturdays. It is more socially acceptable to go out during the week and this means, especially with Oxford’s student population, that these nights can be as busy as a weekend.”

Purple Turtle, which closed in November, described itself as ‘Oxford’s infamous, subterranean undergraduate hangout den’.

It closed after running for 20 years. It had been unable to agree a deal with its building’s owner, the Oxford Union.

According to Thames Valley Police’s website, there were more than 1,000 crimes reported in the city centre in the first three months of 2019.

There were 336 reported in January, 320 in February and 443 in March.