Last orders? Pubs and clubs ‘routinely serving drunks’, research finds

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Liverpool

Most drink sales occurred without hesitation, despite bartenders often recognising drunkenness
Most drink sales occurred without hesitation, despite bartenders often recognising drunkenness
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has hit back at a study which claims pubs and nightclubs are routinely breaking a law which prevents them serving alcohol to drunk people.

The study, carried out by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, found that actors pretending to be drunk were served alcohol illegally in 84 per cent of cases.

Four student actors, aged between 20 and 22, were trained to act drunk in 73 randomly selected pubs, clubs and bars in a city in North West England. Service rates were ‘always high’, ranging from 60 per cent on Wednesdays to 94 per cent on Fridays, and from 78 per cent served before midnight to 96 per cent after midnight.

Some 95 per cent of attempts to buy alcohol were successful in venues where there were bouncers, compared with two-thirds in those without bouncers. Often bartenders recognised they were drunk but still suggested they buy double rather than single shots in 18 per cent of cases.

Responsible retailers

The BBPA questions the study’s findings, insisting that the majority of pubs are ‘safe and responsible venues where drinks are served in a highly supervised environment by well-trained staff’.

A spokesperson for the company said: “As an industry, we provide training and guidance (through the British Institute of Innkeeping) on how to recognise and deal with drunks, including how to explain the law to such customers. 

“Serving drunks has long been illegal and subject to penalties by both the police and councils which can review their licence, for example. Responsible retailers certainly must be aware of their responsibilities.

“We will also be looking at the survey to consider whether it is representative of the trade as a whole.”

Lack of prosecutions

But the university's World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Violence Prevention, which carried out the research, believes a tightening of the law which prevents the sale of alcohol to intoxicated customers would protect long-term health and should be a public health priority.

“Continued provision of alcohol to drunks will increase the risks of acute and long-term health and social harms and consequently the burdens these place on public services and society,” write the authors.

“Although our study focused on one city, a lack of prosecution for sales to drunks throughout England suggests this is typical of nightlife environments nationally.”

The 2003 Licensing Act makes it illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk, or even to try and buy it on their behalf. In theory, offenders can be fined £1,000, but prosecutions are very rare.

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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