Belfast Telegraph

University urges drink retailers to call time on booze deals for students

By Claire McNeilly

The University of Ulster has called on retail drink outlets not to target cheap drinks promotions at students over the St Patrick’s Day period.

The appeal comes a day after the Environment Minister warned Northern Ireland’s pubs and clubs they must end cheap alcohol deals.

After a meeting with members of the pub trade on Wednesday, Alex Attwood said he would leave no stone unturned when it came to stamping out the binge-drinking culture.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday night, a University of Ulster spokesman said he was concerned that so many drinks promotions were clearly being aimed at students.

“We urge alcohol retailers not to target promotions at students, especially over the St Patrick’s Day period, and that applies to all three campuses in Belfast, Londonderry and Coleraine,” he said.

“We’re not going to point the finger at any outlet in particular, but we are already aware of several promotions that may encourage irresponsible drinking and fuel anti-social behaviour.”

The problems with binge-drinking on cheap alcohol came under the spotlight after the death of 20-year-old Joby Murphy, who had been downing £1 vodka shots before he fell into the River Lagan.

Mr Attwood said he wants to make it tougher for pubs and clubs to get and retain entertainments licences.

He also said he was considering closing nightclubs an hour earlier, at 2am, because of the gap between liquor licensing hours (1am) and entertainment licensing hours (3am).

However, drinks promotions — such as ‘two-for-one’ offers and ‘all you can drink’ deals — could soon be a thing of the past.

That's because the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 gave the Department for Social Development (DSD) new powers.

DSD Minister Nelson McCausland is expected to launch a consultation next week on regulations to ban certain irresponsible drink promotions that encourage excessive drinking. Proposals include, for example, a ban on promotions in supermarkets offering eight bottles of beer for the price of six, as well as promotions in pubs and clubs that offer unlimited drink for a fixed price; for example, all you can drink for £20.

The department is working with the drinks trade to develop a code of practice on drink promotions. The draft code seeks to end promotions which encourage excessive consumption of alcohol such as ‘half price drinks for under 25s’ and ‘“buy one get one free’ offers aimed at students.

Mr McCausland intends to make compliance with the code a condition of holding a liquor licence.

Plans are also afoot to charge a minimum price for alcohol of between 40p and 70p a unit, and the Health Minister is conducting research into this at present.

Story so far

In December Health Minister Edwin Poots said alcohol misuse was one of the main threats to public health. He is carrying out research into the impact of introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol. Proposals suggest a price of between 40p and 70p a unit. That means a six-pack of beer would be £4.40 if 40p was adopted, or £7.70 if it was 70p a unit.

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