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News - 9 April 2010

Irresponsible drinks promotions could lead to £20,000 fine

Irresponsible promotions including "all you can drink for £10" and "dentist chairs" have been banned under tough new powers introduced on 6th April and announced by Home Office Minister Alan Campbell.

It is estimated that alcohol-related crime and disorder costs the UK taxpayer between £8 and £13 billion a year. The mandatory code introduces five conditions for all alcohol retailers that will ensure consistent good practice and crack down on problem premises where irresponsible drinking could put individuals at risk and lead to crime and antisocial behaviour.

 The conditions now in force are:

  • banning irresponsible promotions such as "all you can drink for £10" offers, women drink free deals and speed drinking competitions. These promotions encourage people to drink quickly or irresponsibly and could lead to crime or antisocial behaviour;
  • banning "dentist’s chairs" where drink is poured directly into the mouths of customers making it impossible for them to control the amount they are drinking; and
  • ensuring free tap water is available for customers - allowing people to space out their drinks and reduce the risks of becoming dangerously drunk.

The remaining conditions come into effect on 1 October to give retailers time to prepare. They are:

  • ensuring all those who sell alcohol have an age verification policy in place requiring them to check the ID of anyone who looks under 18 to prevent under-age drinking, which can lead to antisocial behaviour and put young people at risk of harm; and
  • ensuring that all on trade premises make available small measures of beers, wine and spirits to customers so customers have the choice between a single or double measure of spirits and a large or small glass of wine.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said, "Alcohol-related crime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and while the vast majority of retailers are responsible, a minority continue to run irresponsible promotions which fuel the excessive drinking that leads to alcohol-related crime and disorder.

"The code will see an end to these promotions and ensure premises check the ID of those who appear to be under-age helping to make our towns and city centres safer places for those who just want to enjoy a good night out."

Any premises that breach the mandatory code or any secondary conditions that have been imposed will face a range of possible sanctions including losing their licence, having additional tough conditions imposed on their licence or, on summary conviction a maximum £20,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment.

Following a nationwide consultation in 2008 that generated more than 7,000 responses, the Home Office actively engaged with the alcohol industry to develop the final five conditions and to produce a 'best practice' document for all retailers which sets out the best voluntary initiatives that the alcohol industry has produced.

Charlotte Elmer, Heineken UK, said, "We welcomed the opportunity to participate fully in the consultation process on the mandatory code and found the Home Office to be open and responsive in taking on board industry concerns about some elements of the original draft.

"This partnership working approach has ensured the final version of the Code is proportionate, raising standards by banning the extreme end of promotions, such as drink all you can for £10. We do not believe this kind of deep discounting to drive footfall sits side by side with the promotion of responsible consumption. 

"We also welcome the requirement to ensure free tap water and smaller measures are available as another contribution towards making town centres and our night-time economy a welcoming environment for everyone and achieving our shared aim of reduced alcohol-related crime and health harms."

As well as the new mandatory code the government also introduced Drinking Banning Orders (DBOs) on conviction from 1 April on a phased roll out starting in 25 local justice areas. An order will allow magistrates to ban or prevent an individual who has committed a crime under the influence of alcohol, from entering any premises that sell alcohol.

Read related items on:
Home Office
Campbell, Alan
Elmer, Charlotte

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