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The government must clamp down on cheap supermarket booze

Venue owners haven’t had the easiest couple of years with rising costs (of breweries, energy, etc), high alcohol taxes (eight times higher than France), and uninhibited supermarket prices. With this awful recession hopefully drawing to a close, all businesses need a few years to recoup, refocus, and expand. It certainly doesn’t need more red tape to wade through. It is also incredibly unfair and unjustifiable to come down hard on promoters and venue owners when retailers, and in particular supermarkets are allowed to continue sometimes underhand tactics of selling alcohol at low enough costs to encourage people to stay at home. After all, we are supposed to be stimulating our economy, and small businesses are key. Why then does this government favour big business over independent premises.

One huge question is whether the ‘new’ proposals will actually work. Let’s look at Scotland where many of these proposals are already legally enforced. Recent findings support my concerns that supermarket sales will rise at the expense of pubs, bars, clubs, and restaurants. Scots drink 25% more alcohol than the English at a staggering rate of the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka per person per year. This is the first recorded statistic showing that supermarket sales of alcohol are more than double those of pubs, bars, clubs, and restaurants. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that a person in Scotland is able to exceed the weekly drinking guidelines for a man for less than £3.50 through purchasing alcohol in supermarkets. Yet the government there still seeks to slap a minimum price on alcohol bought in pubs.

I do not condone binge drinking, or the advocation of such behaviour. In fact, my advice for promoters and venue owners is to encourage responsible drinking through their drinks promotions; if not on moral grounds then simply due to the fact that excessive drinking causes negative publicity. My main objection to the proposals is that it puts our industry at a competitive disadvantage to the supermarkets. The government should not punish the entire nightlife and late night events industry (including customers) for the irresponsible acts of a few. Perhaps better education on the effects of excessive alcohol consumption, and stricter repercussions on those that cause bodily harm and criminal damage as a result of their drinking would be more advisable.

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