Mixed response to government’s minimum alcohol price proposals

After months of speculation, the government has finally unveiled its proposals for introducing a minimum alcohol price alongside a host of other measures designed to cut down on problem drinking.

In its alcohol strategy consultation launched yesterday (November 27th), the Home Office suggested a minimum price for alcohol of 45p a unit, as well as a ban on the multibuy deals often offered by supermarkets and off licences.

Commenting on the proposals, policing minister Damian Green said the measures are targeted at lowering alcohol-related crime and would not have a major impact on those who already drink responsibly.

"These measures are not about stopping responsible drinking but designed to tackle the minority who cause alcohol-related crime and disorder in our local communities," he said.

"The evidence is clear – the availability of cheap alcohol contributes to harmful levels of drinking. It can't be right that it is possible to purchase a can of beer for as little as 20p."

However, at a time when drink sales at many pubs and bars across the UK are declining, the government's plans could have a significant impact on the pub industry and the hospitality jobs it provides.

In theory, a minimum pricing strategy should be positive for pubs, as it will mostly affect supermarkets, which tend to sell at far cheaper prices.

However, the proposals have received a somewhat mixed reaction from those in the pub and bar industry.

Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), said the pub group is pleased the government has "now finally woken up to the fact that it is the plethora of pocket money priced alcohol promotions which are the real problem".

However, ALMR believes that the proposals do not go nearly far enough when it comes to supermarkets selling large quantities of alcohol at low prices.

"We are disappointed that the consultation does not go further in this area and get a grip on bulk sales, price led advertising and in?store promotions," said Ms Nicholls.

"There is nothing here which will stop supermarkets continuing to sell wholesale quantities of alcohol to the public at prices some pubs cannot buy it. The consultation itself acknowledges that there will be net benefit to the off?trade."

Meanwhile, the British Beer & Pub Association raised concerns about the impact the new proposals could have on responsible drinkers.

"We strongly believe that alcohol should be priced in a way that is socially responsible, but there are concerns that minimum pricing would penalise a sensible majority of people who drink in moderation," said the organisation's chief executive Brigid Simmonds.

She also raised concerns that certain aspects of the proposals – namely a review of the mandatory licensing conditions designed to ensure that they are sufficiently targeting problems such as irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs – could place an unnecessary administrative burden upon licenced premises.

"Any review of the Mandatory Code should not result in new onerous legislation or regulation for pubs," said Ms Simmonds.

"We do however welcome further clarification on the ban on promotions, to give greater clarity."

In other pub and bar news this week, Mitchells & Butlers, which owns the All Bar One and O'Neills chains, announced it saw a three per cent increase in revenue to nearly £1.9 billion for the 53 weeks to September 29th 2012, with like-for-like sales up 2.1 per cent.

The news could prove positive for those looking for pub jobs as the group's growth could lead to an increase in bar vacancies being made available.

"M&B is well positioned to take maximum advantage of our evolving industry and we have the right strategy in place," said chief executive Alistair Darby.

Find bar work with Berkeley Scott, the specialist hotel, hospitality and catering recruitment agency