A national campaign to plant undercover cops in pubs to catch staff serving drunks could sound the death knell for the British pub - that's the view of one trade leader.
A pilot project is currently underway in Blackpool and the MA can reveal that Home Office funding will be available for a national campaign running from November through to Christmas.
This could be the death of the British pub
Bar Entertainment & Dance Association executive director Paul Smith.
But police are still not providing a clear definition of what constitutes being drunk despite being able to issue £80 on-the-spot fines to staff and call for a licence review.
"This could be the death of the British pub," said Bar Entertainment & Dance Association executive director Paul Smith. "I think it will further accelerate the shift to drinking at home and a lot of licensees will lock the doors and go home. I hope trade bodies stand united to fight this."
The Blackpool pilot scheme began last week after police claimed they had already witnessed drunks being served. Police said they would also issue fines to the drunks.
"It's a disgrace," blasted Blackpool licensee and National Association of Licensed House Managers president Dave Daly.
"The pubwatch has told the police we need more time to train staff because it is so hard to spot a drunk and even harder to challenge them. In 30 years of challenging drunks I have never known one accept the decision lightly.
"And if there is an altercation will the police break their cover to help out? It is so hard getting staff, and now more will leave because they are frightened of an £80 fine."
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Nick Bish added: "This is not in the spirit of co-operation between stakeholders. We know we can not serve drunks but the problem has always been in defining drunk - it is a subjective term."
British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Rob Hayward said: "We are currently seeking clarification of the nature of this campaign and are trying to ensure that it follows an appropriate course."
Federation of Licensed Victuallers Association chief executive Tony Payne stressed that training would be the key to avoiding fines. "Even a part-timer who works three hours a week can lose you your licence these days, so proper and constant training is crucial. Before the Licensing Act, our training manual was 12 pages, now it is 60 pages."