The launch of Northern Ireland’s first off-licence delivery service could lead to an increase in alcohol abuse, it has been warned.
DR:NK, which is part of the Botanic Inns Group, is offering a new carry-out facility similar to takeaway restaurants where customers can order alcohol from home.
General manager Barry McLaughlin said the company will provide customers with products including wine, beer, spirits and confectionery. “This is an extension of our service, and with people leading increasingly busy lives, it enables them to maximise their leisure time.”
But Alex Maskey, chair of Stormont’s social development committee, said it was hard to ignore the downsides of the online off-licence. “I don’t think too many people will be jumping for joy to welcome it because it makes alcohol more readily available and more easy to abuse,” said the Sinn Fein MLA.
“You don’t want to be a killjoy, and there are responsible people out there, but it is fraught with danger. People will be concerned about how it can really be policed.” The service, launched in conjunction with the website Nifty Nosh, offers a delivery service with order tracking facility.
Independent social development committee member David McClarty said he was completely against the service.
“It is open to all sorts of abuses, particularly in Northern Ireland where we have problems with underage drinking and alcohol abuse,” he said. “The easier it is for people to avail of alcohol, the more problems we are going to create for society.”
But Pubs of Ulster chief executive Colin Neill pointed out that supermarkets already offer the service more cheaply.
“This is about giving customers what they want and meeting the demands of the market,” Mr Neill said. “There will be extra measures in place to ensure alcohol is ordered and received by an adult.”
The service will run Monday to Friday from 3-10.30pm, Saturday noon-10.30pm and Sunday 1-9.30pm for minimum orders valued at £5.
Deliveries should be within an hour and are subject to a £2 charge. The company has said customers must pay by credit card to confirm that they are over 18.
Drivers must ensure customers are over age by asking for ID; without it the order will be cancelled.