A team of researchers spent six months working with Devon and Cornwall Police surveying nearly 600 people arrested for alcohol-related incidents to investigate their drinking patterns.
They found two thirds of those questioned aged 17-30 had been drinking at home before heading to town, while the majority admitted they were drunk before they even reached their going-out destination.
Dr Adrian Barton of the Plymouth Business School said the Government crackdown on cheap drinks in licensed premises had led to more people drinking at home. He said, despite this, public policy was still focused on a 'pub-club' model of drinking as opposed to the 'home-pub-club' model which almost half of drinkers were now adopting.
"Although it may seem counter intuitive, it may be that that in order to better control violence in the night-time economy, government policy needs to entice people back into the pubs and bars, especially for the crucial early evening period, where they can at least be monitored by staff, and where their drinking patterns will have natural breaks when they move from place to place,” he said.
The release of the research coincided with a public conference at the Best Western Duke of Cornwall Hotel, Plymouth on binge drinking, 'pre-loading' and Government alcohol strategies to mark the launch of the new research institute at Plymouth University.
Of the 17-30-year-olds that were questioned by the researchers, 83 per cent had bought beer, wine or spirits from the supermarket earlier in the night. Of these 40 per cent were later arrested for violence-related offences.
Barton said the research showed there was a demand for early evening drinks and reducing the availability of these in pubs and bars had led to dangerous pre-loading of alcohol from supermarkets and other cheaper alternatives which had contributed to the rise in alcohol-related crime.
“Somewhat paradoxically, it would appear that previous government policy around alcohol, such as the restrictions on discounted drinks promotions and happy hours, and extended licensing hours, could be at the root of some of these problems," he said.
After the Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech last month where he called for more action from the drinks industry and pubs on binge drinking, BigHospitality asked for your views in a discussion on our LinkedIn page. Among the comments received the following points were made by members of the group:
- Chris Overend said about supermarkets: "How can you sell ten cases of beer to one customer in a single sale? If I sold the equivalent to one customer in my pub, I would lose my licence."
- Anthony Zausmer made the point that the drinking problem was larger than pubs or supermarkets: "Any talk of diminishing binge drinking by introducing a minimum price per unit or by putting the onus on licensees - be they of bars, pubs and clubs OR supermarkets - is just a cheap trick to avoid the real issue: Society is damaged and needs extensive remedial work."
- Publican Sam's point was similar to that made today by the Plymouth University research: "If only there were places where the consumption of alcohol was in a genuinely social and regulated setting? Oh yeah, we've got them...they're called pubs."
- Hannah McIntyre said in the end the issue came down to money: "Who generates more for the government coffers? The grocery market has an annual turnover of circa £150bn per year. The pub market is circa 10 per cent of this. I think the governmental mathematics and the support they are likely to give to which industry is clear, sadly."
The Government is expected to publish an alcohol strategy in the next few weeks with some reports suggesting a minimum price per unit of alcohol is among the options being considered.