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alcohol health alliance uk

Landlords call time on cheap alcohol

Posted 23/11/12

Pubs across the north east are calling on Government to ease pressure on small business by taking action on cheap supermarket alcohol.

As 16 British pubs a week call last orders for the last time, half of the region’s landlords say their profits have fallen over the previous 12 months, while a third expect this decline to continue over the year ahead.

The research was published today (Friday, November 23) by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

It identifies the sale of cheap supermarket alcohol as a key reason for declining trade, with eight in ten landlords admitting that supermarket price promotions have damaged business over the last five years.

As a result, seven in ten north east publicans support the introduction of a minimum unit price, which would increase the price of cheap, strong alcohol while having no impact on pub prices. Importantly, this will close the price gap between pubs and supermarkets.

A number of prominent north east pub owners, along with the British Institute of Innkeeping which has 400 members in the region, have made their views known to Government.

They have written to Michael Fallon MP, Business and Enterprise Minister, asking him to back small business and put his weight behind a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit.

Signatory Tony Brookes is Managing Director of the Head of Steam Ltd which owns premises in Newcastle, Gateshead, Durham, Liverpool and Huddersfield.

He said: “Not only are these prices diverting our trade and damaging our livelihood, they mean that people are rolling into town drunk, posing a greater risk to themselves and others, including our staff who are legally prevented from serving anyone who has drunk too much.

“The Government has an ideal opportunity to protect small business by closing the huge price gap that exists between supermarkets and community pubs. If they are serious about protecting us, we need a minimum unit price of at least 50p, which will have a meaningful impact on cheap supermarket alcohol, while having no effect on pub prices. That’s why I’ve written to Mr Fallon asking him to bring his influence to bear and protect the Great British community pub.”

North east publicans have also joined forces with Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, to help customers understand what a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit will mean and encourage them to support the measure.

As part of the campaign, participating pubs have received beer mats and posters encouraging customers to visit www.balancenortheast.co.uk/mup and back a minimum unit price.

Tony added: “Anyone who loves their local, or the Great British pub for that matter, needs to sign up to this campaign. There are many factors which are threatening our trade – but supermarkets really do have a strangle-hold on pubs. This measure will give us some breathing space.”

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “It’s no surprise that alcohol sold at pocket money prices is having a major impact on the livelihoods of those working in the region’s pub trade.

“The introduction of a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit of alcohol would help level the playing field by closing the price gap that exists between pubs and supermarkets. This would make ‘pre-loading’ or getting drunk at home before a night out less financially appealing and help breathe life back into the British community pub – a hugely important part of this country’s small business backbone.”

The research, which was commissioned by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, surveyed more than 200 of the region’s landlords. It reveals that:

Richard Slade, Regional Chair of the British Institute of Innkeeping, said: “We can’t and won’t compete with the prices being offered by supermarkets. Hundreds of pubs have closed in the North East and we feel that the widespread availability of cheap alcohol at supermarkets is a major factor.

“We really have had enough – it’s time to tackle the problems caused by cheap alcohol. It’s time to introduce a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit of alcohol, which will enable us to compete and end this culture of pre-loading.”