Belfast Telegraph

Happy hours and cheap drink lures will be outlawed

By Deborah McAleese

Pub and club promotions that encourage binge drinking are to be banned in Northern Ireland in a crackdown on the sale of cheap alcohol.

A ban on happy hours, free drinks for women and promotions that encourage excessive drinking will form part of proposed new tougher licensing laws set to be introduced.

Offers such as ‘All you can drink for £10’, ‘Free drinks for women’ or ‘Buy one get one free’ can be seen advertised at many bars and clubs across Northern Ireland to try and boost customer numbers.

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood, however, said he intends to ban such promotions and will be presenting new proposals within the next few weeks to introduce controls on drink promotions for pubs, clubs, supermarkets and other outlets.

The move comes amid rising public concern at the extent of public drunkenness and alcohol-fuelled disorder on the streets. Binge drinking has often been blamed for the rise of violent behaviour and thuggery.

Mr Attwood said the irresponsible sale of alcohol can create many health and social problems in the community.

“It is something that I want to address as quickly as possible,” he said.

“It is imperative that we get new laws introduced to tackle this problem. In order to get these new controls in place as soon as possible I asked to piggyback on the new Justice Bill which will go through the Assembly in the Autumn.

“This is a clear example of ministers and government working quickly together to identify and address problems.”

The tougher code of practice will be followed up with the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol in clubs, pubs and supermarkets.

“On a larger scale, I want to target those retailers who sell alcohol below cost price in order to encourage higher footfall and therefore generate sales.

“Selling alcohol at minimal prices encourages people to drink irresponsibly, with damaging knock-on effects on themselves and in society. It is my duty as the Social Development Minister to tackle this head on,” he said.

Mr Attwood has already begun to tackle alcohol abuse through the Licensing Bill which he presented to the Assembly in June.

That legislation will give the PSNI powers to immediately shut down pubs and clubs if there is disorder. It will also introduce a new penalty points system for license holders when they are found to be operating outside the law, as well as tough new proof of ID rules for clubs and pubs.

The Executive has already endorsed the proposals which will go for consultation after being tabled in the Assembly in the Autumn.

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