Danger zones

Related tags Alcohol disorder zones Local government

Despite criticism from all sides of the pub trade, the government's plans to levy a tax on pubs in 'alcohol disorder zones' have taken a step closer...

Despite criticism from all sides of the pub trade, the government's plans to levy a tax on pubs in 'alcohol disorder zones' have taken a step closer to becoming reality. James Wilmore looks at the details.

Westminster's latest plans for a clampdown on alcohol-related disorder sparked plenty of headlines earlier this month. The idea that those involved in alcohol-fuelled trouble could get a two-year ban from premises grabbed much of the attention.

But also included in the government's Violent Crime Reduction Bill were the much-heralded alcohol disorder zones (ADZs), which could force pubs in designated areas to pay as much as £100 a week for extra policing.

Are they workable?

Ever since plans for ADZs were first touted around at the beginning of the year they have been knocked, both from inside and outside the pub industry. Even the notoriously pub-bashing Daily Mail described the fee pubs could be forced to pay as a "stealth tax".

Mark Hastings, communications director at the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), claims that ADZs will achieve "exactly the opposite to what they are designed to". "If you declare an ADZ then the very people you want to come to your town or city will be put off from visiting and the people you want to deter will be attracted to it," he pointed out.

Mr Hastings believes the policy says to police and local authorities: if you solve the problem of alcohol-related violence, you don't get any extra money - but if you let disorder reign then you get extra funds.

Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, also doubts whether ADZs will be effective.

"For some I think it will be a sort of macho-challenge to go to the areas. It will also be unfair on some pub operators if an area is seen as a sort of no-go area by law-abiding citizens," he said.

Mr Bish believes the proposals are a direct result of the Daily Mail's "Say No to 24-hour drinking" campaign in January.

The Association of Chief Police Officers, meanwhile, is now sitting on the fence over whether ADZs can work, after criticising them during the consultation.

"The theory we agree with, but until we see how they will operate we cannot comment," said a spokeswoman.

"We think it's right that people who are profiting from the sale of alcohol should have to pay for the disorder that creates. Our only concern is that the idea must be workable and practical."

Equally, LACORS, the local authority co-ordinating body, is tentatively backing the scheme. But Cllr Bryony Rudkin, chair of the Local Government Association's Safer Communities Board, agrees with Mr Hastings that ADZs could backfire.

"We feel that banning people from drinking in certain areas will serve only to displace the problem elsewhere," she pointed out.

Are there alternatives?

The BBPA regards the powers that are already in place as sufficient.

"If there are pubs that are causing a problem police can restrict their hours, take away their licence or close them down," said Mr Hastings. "Punishing and prosecuting problem individuals is also a way of dealing with it."

Cllr Rudkin also feels that the problem should be looked at in a different light. "It is vital that the proposed initiatives go hand-in-hand with longer-term projects involving education and advice on alcohol," she saidThe bill is still at its early stages, and there is still plenty of time for the trade to have its say.

And perhaps, with a planned eight-week warning period giving licensed premises a chance to clean up their act before an area is declared an ADZ, if they do become law ADZs could be few and far between.

As such, Nick Bish suggests: "It is some people's expectations that only two a year will be declared."

We shall see.

What will determine an ADZ?

Under the proposals, a council will be able to designate an area an ADZ if it is satisfied that:

  • there has been a nuisance or annoyance to members of the public
  • the nuisance is associated with the consumption of alcohol, or with the consumption of alcohol supplied in that area
  • there is likely to be a repetition of nuisance, annoyance or disorder.

'The people who cause the trouble should pay'

  • James Eales, licensee at the King Edward VII, Stratford, East London:

"The idea is absolute rubbish as far as I'm concerned. I've been in my pub three and-a-half years and I've only had to call the police three times.

"I don't see why I should have to pay for the mismanagement of the police. I think the powers they have at the moment are enough."

Sarah Bird, licensee at Skinners Ale House, Newquay, Cornwall:

"We are an older person's pub and are not directly responsible for any disorder, so it would be unfair if we had to pay a fee. With the new Security Industry Authority rules, doorstaff are doing more of the police's job and because of this I don't think ADZs are necessary."

Stuart Jordan, licensee at the Escape bar, Soho, Central London and Kazbar, Clapham, South London:

"I wonder what we pay our rates for. It should be the
people that cause the trouble who pay. If people can't behave themselves they should be locked up - there's no personal responsibility in this country."

Related topics Licensing law

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more