Northern Ireland minister Attwood goes to war on cheap booze promos
‘Irresponsible’ pricing won’t be tolerated, bar trade told
Alex Attwood has laid down the law to Northern Ireland’s pubs and clubs — warning them that cheap drinks promotions must end.
The Environment Minister has also said he will consider forcing nightclubs to close earlier as he wages war on Ulster’s escalating binge drinking culture.
After meeting with representatives of the Northern Ireland pubs trade, Mr Attwood called for a ban on “irresponsible” drinks promotions, such as ‘two-for-one’ offers and ‘all you can drink for £10’ deals.
He said that the damage caused to the licensing industry by the actions of some meant it was now “time to get the house in order”.
“When I was DSD Minister I put into legislation a new power in respect of a ban on irresponsible drinks promotions in clubs,” Mr Attwood told the Belfast Telegraph last night.
“My successor is bringing forward regulations as to what irresponsible drinks promotions will be banned and will not be permitted under law.
“But it is widely accepted that two-for-one and ‘drink all that you can for £10’ offers could be deemed to be irresponsible promotions, similarly deals like ‘girlfriends drink free’. It’s generally accepted that’s the character of drinks promotions that would be deemed to be irresponsible.”
Drinks deals at knock-down prices have been under intense scrutiny following the death of 20-year-old Joby Murphy in January.
The young north Belfast man had been drinking vodka priced at £1 a shot at a nightclub before he fell into the River Lagan and drowned.
After The Pubs of Ulster yesterday launched a code of conduct for its members, Mr Attwood vowed to make it tougher for pubs and clubs to get and retain licences.
“I can toughen up the regime by putting into entertainments licences more severe conditions in respect of how premises are managed, so that if nightclub owners offend against that code they can get their entertainments licence withdrawn,” he said.
Mr Attwood added that he would now be “actively considering” opening hours because of the two-hour gap between liquor licencing hours and entertainment licences.
“There is a tension between two different legal regimes; the one that allows the sale of alcohol until 1am and the one that allows entertainments licences until 3am,” he said.
“We want to find a way of reconciling that tension by having the same regime that you have drinks licences to a certain hour, drinking-up time and at the end of that drinking-up time the entertainments licence runs out as well.
“Belfast City Council used to grant entertainment licences until 6am in the morning but that stopped and they now grant them until 3am. But there’s now an argument about whether that should be pulled back to 2am.”
He also said that anyone conducting irresponsible drinks promotions could be taken to court by councils and hit with penalties.
“Then when it comes to the renewal of a licence, that can be used against a renewal,” he added.
Despite the minister’s tough talking, this newspaper found no difficulty in finding cheap alcohol deals in Belfast city centre.
Revolution Sundays at the Beach club in Belfast’s Odyssey tells clubbers to “forget Mondays and come out on Sundays” with “all drinks for £2 and all cocktails £2.50”.
The Bridge House in Bedford Street, part of the Wetherspoon's chain, offers drinks priced from £1.75, and also advertises a Wednesday Ale Club with pints from £1.65 all day.
And, over at Lavery’s Gin Palace off-sales in Bradbury Place, consumers can pick up three bottles of wine for £11.
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has said he would move to ban some cheap drink promotions and is expected to launch a consultation next week.
As minister speaks out, the cut-price offers scream from posters
Amanda Poole surveys the abundance of cheap alcohol deals available in Belfast city centre
A tour of some of Belfast’s most popular pubs and clubs reveals an array of cheap drink promotions.
At the Beach nightclub within the Odyssey Pavilion, a number of promotional campaign posters were in the front windows advertising events.
Some of the event posters indicate at the bottom that the club in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is “working in partnership with Pubs of Ulster to promote responsible drinking”.
One poster is for the Sound As A Pound student night, offering the “best value drinks in town” and another for a weekend event called Mischief is offering drinks from £2.
Revolution Sundays at the Beach club tells clubbers to “forget Mondays and come out on Sundays” with “all drinks for £2 and all cocktails £2.50”.
Free admission and free bubbly for private parties are another two ways the Beach club posters attempt to attract consumers.
Also at the Odyssey complex is the Box nightclub.
Revellers heading to its Ibiza-themed night, coming up at the end of the month, can expect to pay £2 for drinks, including mixers.
And at The Bridge House in Bedford Street, part of the Wetherspoon chain, a real ales festival is being promoted, with drinks available from £1.75.
One poster in the window of the city centre bar also advertises a Wednesday Ale Club, with pints from £1.65 all day.
At Mynt, in Dunbar Street, located in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, all cocktails are two for one from 9pm-1am on a Friday and Saturday night.
At Lavery’s Gin Palace, off sales in Bradbury Place, it’s possible to buy three bottles of wine for £11 and and beer deals are being promoted.
Fifteen bottles of Budweiser were on offer for £11.50, which works out at 76p per bottle. And Fifteen cans of Tennent's lager is £10.95, making the cost of each one 73p.
Meanwhile, according to the Botanic Inns website, at The Bot on the Malone Road, some of the drinks are priced at £2.50 and at Scratch nightclub in Lower Crescent, there are “£2 drinks promos” on certain nights.
This weekend also sees the the end of the “free Guinness voucher” promotion from Botanic Inns and people are asked to “keep an eye out” for new Monday-Friday special drink offers at The Parador on the Ormeau Road.