Last week, the Home Office proposed a minimum price for alcohol of 45p per unit in England and Wales, with the aim of cracking down on binge drinking.
Other proposals include a ban on multi-buy drinks promotions in the off-trade; a review of mandatory licensing conditions to ensure that they are sufficiently targeting problems such as irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs; introducing health as a licensing objective for cumulative impact policies; and cutting red tape for responsible businesses.
The Alcohol Strategy consultation also asks for views on increasing the limit for temporary event notices (TENs) from 12 to either 15 or 18 per year; and axing the need to advertise licence variations in local newspapers.
However, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ (ALMR’s) strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said that the Government has proposed only “minor tinkering” to pub-trade regulations.
She said: “The removal of the renewal requirement for personal licences is good, as is TENs, but these are all minor tinkering in contrast to the major burdens.
“I can’t see much reduction in the overall burden, and some of the other deregulation proposals we have all pushed for are not there — for example, a common payment date for annual fees.”
Nicholls added: “The Government has just imposed a late-night levy (with up to £4,000 costs) and the threat of early morning restriction orders, as well as additional increases in licensing fees. This is on top of other controls systematically imposed on an annual basis on pubs, clubs and bars over the past seven years. We are as tightly regulated as we can be.”
Nigel Williams, president of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations, believes that not enough has been proposed in the consultation to help licensees.
“I think there’s still a huge amount of onus and responsibility on the individual licensee,” he said. “I would have hoped that would have been softened a bit. It’s the day-to-day responsibilities piled on the individual that make life difficult.”
He pointed to the introduction of the late-night levy and removing the vicinity test for licence applications.
Williams added that the Government also has to make sure any new guidance is clear, and that police officers understand it.
Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay added concerns about allowing conditions relating to health to be added to licences. “What that means, who knows,” he said.
The consultation on the alcohol strategy is set to run until 6 February 2013.