“THE idea is ridiculous,” said Alan Dove, chairman of Townwatch. “What are we, some sort of authoritarian state?”

Mr Dove’s derision was directed at the idea of banning stag parties and hen nights from Bournemouth bars, suggested by shopkeepers in Monday’s Daily Echo as one way of fighting a huge drop in shopper numbers.

But while the Daily Echo’s online readers were 59 per cent in favour of the idea there is little enthusiasm in the trade.

Mr Dove said: “I see police reports, and the police aren’t telling us there’s a particular problem.”

Gerry Wilton started organising stag and hen trips more than 10 years ago and today arranges accommodation for them.

“They’re now a hugely important part of the nighttime economy,” he said. “In my experience the vast majority of organised parties are well behaved and the only trouble is within the group, not with other people.”

Michael Cooke, owner of Camel on Old Christchurch Road, said: “We don’t really cater for them. But I can’t imagine how Bournemouth would replace them. In most cases they’re coming to have a good time. If we turn our noses up at them, they’d go somewhere else.”

Emily Sparking, 21, who works at an in Old Christchurch Road bar, said: “Hens aren’t too bad, but if you have large groups of men and something kicks off, it’s difficult to control.

“Unfortunately, they do spend a lot of money. A ban might help though – sometimes you just want a nice evening out without people being rowdy.”

60 Million Postcards does not admit stags and hens, or indeed any large, single sex groups.

Nick Lofts, assistant manager, said: “We don’t feel they’re appropriate for the atmosphere we’re trying to create. I don’t want to sit in a bar with 20 lairy men – it’s uncomfortable. I don’t think a ban is a good idea though, it’s going a bit too far – it’s like 1984.”

Steve Wright, the council’s licensing manager, said bars should treat stags and hens like any other group.

Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, said: “Bournemouth has a vibrant nightlife which makes a significant contribution to the local economy. Alcohol-related antisocial behaviour – not just from stag and hen parties – does however, deter others from visiting the town centre in the evenings.”