A mandatory code of conduct announced today by the Government may impose strict rules on pubs and restaurants regarding their alcohol sales, as part of a £4.5m ‘crackdown’ on alcohol fuelled crime.
The government will consult on a range of compulsory conditions limiting licensed premises’ alcohol sales, including ensuring staff are properly trained, requiring customers are able to see unit content of all alcohol at the point of sale, requiring licensed premises to have the minimum sized glasses available, and banning irresponsible promotional offers.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said both she and the industry have a responsibility to tackle the UK’s binge drinking culture. “I have a duty to crack down on irresponsible promotions that can fuel excessive drinking and lead people into crime and disorder,” she continued. “That’s why I will impose new standards on the alcohol industry that everyone will have to meet with tough penalties if they break the rules.”
The maximum fine establishments can receive if they breach the code of conduct is £20k, or a six month jail sentence.
An independent review commissioned by the government found that changes to how alcohol is priced and promoted could reduce crime and health problems. On the basis of these findings, they will now enter into a consultation to decide what policies the code of conduct will include.
Nick Bish, chairman of the ALMR said that the government should be cautious about what policies they do decide to implement, for danger of damaging further an already precarious industry, adding they should concentrate more on supermarkets’ responsibility.
“We know that the vast majority of pubs and bars retail in a responsible manner, and that the real problem behind irresponsible drinking is the sales policy of supermarkets that flood our streets, parks and playgrounds with cheap alcohol.
“Of course we welcome measures that might yet tackle the irresponsible pricing strategies of supermarkets, but still believe that a ban on below cost selling would be the most effective way of doing this.”
The British Beer and Pub Association has also urged the government to ensure the measures cover ‘everyone’ who retails alcohol, and warns against imposing to many `red-tape` policies that may only seek to condemn more pubs to closure.
Bob Cotton, chairman of the British Hospitality Association agrees, stating his concern that too many new rules may push more financial costs onto restaurants who have already had to fork out to change menus for the change in VAT.
"This is not the time to be piling additional costs onto restaurants. The BHA is concerned about the cost of implementing the requirement that consumers are able to see the unit content of all alcohol when they buy it, and the requirement that bars and pubs have to have minimum sized glasses available for customers who want them. We are concerned about the cost of restaurants having to buy in new sets of small glasses, and need clarification of exactly how consumers are able to see the unit content."
Health Secretary Alan Johnson, said he would consider the options carefully before making any decisions on policies. “It would be wrong to make sweeping changes without taking account of all the options suggested by our new research," he said. "We need to do more work on this to make sure any action we take is appropriate, fair and effective.”
The government has also given new powers to licensing authorities to clampdown on specific problems in their areas, with the ability to target several establishments at once.