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We must act and act now

From The Publican


Beer producers, pub owners, pub operators; it no longer matters on which side of this £28bn industry you sit, we are all under attack.

The issue at the heart of all this is alcohol. We have passed a tipping point in society. Alcohol is bad; anyone involved in the alcohol trade is bad.

A day does not go by without the national media carrying a lead item suggesting that alcohol is the new Public Enemy Number One. We must do something to counteract this.

At the recent annual Publican Conference one of the day's topics was the impact of social policy.

In a debate which included Nick Grant, head of legal services at J Sainsbury, it emerged that for a number of years the major supermarket chains have worked together as a lobby group to put their message across to government. They do this on a company basis, not through trade associations.

There is a lesson we can learn. The major companies in the sector - brewers, pub owners and pub operators - need to start making the case for alcohol.

While the trade associations - and we know there are many of them doing great jobs - have a role to play, now is the time for companies to work together to put a lobbying group together.

The tobacco industry has done this very well and supermarkets have done it very well too. We must now protect and promote our interest as the anti-alcohol onslaught gets bigger.

We all know we do not put our message across well, because in the main our industry is fragmented with competing aims and ambitions. This will affect us all and is a major challenge. It is probably the biggest challenge we will face.

I feel we need to have a company-led lobby group perhaps called 'The Alcohol Strategy Group'. This needs to be put together now and should be led by the major companies with representation across the spectrum. It must sit outside trade bodies.

It is too important to get bogged down in the historic squabbles. Most importantly it will need to be led by a heavyweight lobbyist.

We must act now - and together.

Peter Linacre, managing director of Massive Pub Company and a council member of ALMR, writes in a personal capacity

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