There was always a danger that as trade got tougher, the dreaded two-for-one offers would rear their ugly heads again. And sure enough, anecdotal evidence of a rash of irresponsible promotions is steadily mounting as some desperate licensees throw caution to the winds and scrap for the custom of Britain's young binge drinkers.
Compared to what's happening in the off-trade, infringement levels are minuscule. But sadly, one respectable high-street name has already been dragged downmarket into the discount war zone. A Barracuda bar in the West Country, which had the dubious honour of hosting a Royal binge session last week, was offering VK bottles for a pound. Pictured in the national press was Prince William with 15 of the silver bottles in front of him. Not good.
It's stories like that, which gave the Home Secretary ammunition a-plenty to fire at the pub trade a few days ago when she announced her latest repackaging of anti-binge drinking measures. It didn't help our cause overmuch either that the results of the Christmas blitz revealed that one in 10 pubs were caught serving underage youths.
To add to the misery, the Daily Wail is laying into the sins of alcohol again with its usual evangelical zeal. The only bright spot in its coverage this time was that, at last, the off-trade is now being put to the sword in the way the on-trade has for years. The outrageous cheapness of supermarket drinks offers was highlighted so vividly that the time cannot be far away when Government imposes a clampdown.
While we wait for that long-overdue development, though, let's pay tribute to the sterling work of National Pubwatch, which continues to carry a beacon for responsible retailing across the country. Its annual conference last week highlighted the considerable influence it brings to bear on helping police and licensees work harmoniously together to crack bad drinking practices.
Over 500 pubwatches are supported and encouraged by National Pubwatch, which the Morning Advertiser played a strong part in creating more than 10 years ago. We are proud to be so closely associated with such a valuable institution, and urge any licensee who is not a member of his local pubwatch to join as quickly as possible. It's organisations like local pubwatches and National Pubwatch which show politicians that the on-trade is, on the whole, far better at self-regulation than the off-trade. Let's just make sure those shabby discounting tactics that seem to be creeping back don't take hold once again. Pubwatches everywhere beware.