Real danger of all-inclusives

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Local authority, Alcoholic beverage, Oldham

Paul Charity
Paul Charity
The BBC's Panorama report on Oldham's binge-drinking problems pointed the finger at the supermarkets — but the on-trade isn't entirely blameless

The BBC's Panorama report on Oldham's binge-drinking problems recognised the role the off-trade plays in problem-drinking.

The Panorama team found the supermarket giants — with Tesco the worst — offering super-cheap booze. It also had the depth of understanding to follow three teenage girls as they pre-loaded on a bottle of vodka. The girls admitted that any vodka left unfinished before they hit the town might well be slipped into a hip flask to be drunk as they toured the town's bars. It also gently upbraided the local authority for a lack of action on supermarkets and off-licences — a direct contrast to the Draconian and, let's face it, somewhat silly plans for the town's pubs and bars.

Silliest of all — and exposed as such by the programme-makers who staged a trial run in a bar away from Oldham — is the desire to introduce post-office style queues in the town's bars. If, of course, the real plan is to squeeze all of the fun out of visiting a pub and therefore destroy the weekend pub trade completely, the Oldham plan is likely to succeed very quickly indeed. The idea, too, that pubs should fork out £45 an hour each for two policemen to stand inside the premises would be sufficiently financially onerous to close all but the very largest pubs and nightclubs.

The off-trade needs to recognise its own culpability, but, nevertheless, it is impossible for the pub trade to claim it has played no part in the all-too-obvious problems in Oldham. One flyer showed a January £5.99 all-inclusive deal run by a pretty well-known operator. No matter how well it is managed, an all-inclusive deal incentivises speedy consumption of booze. All-inclusive deals offer critics of the trade an easy and obvious weapon. Companies that organise all-inclusive deals know full well they are resorting to a kind of nuclear option, running the risk of a cataclysmic outcome. It's a desperate last resort move to jump-start trade. Until the trade eradicates all-inclusive offers once and for all we are on the back foot.

Those companies and individuals that mount them are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. As it happens in Oldham, the local authority's bark looks a lot worse than its bite. Its attempts to impose tough new conditions are being negotiated down, with not a single premises agreeing to increase its prices to fall in line with the authority's wishes. It's a reflection of the relatively weak legal position of the local authority. However, there's extreme danger here — Oldham's local authority may be over-ambitious, but if the problems highlighted by Panorama persist in our town and city centres who'd be surprised if the trade gets clobbered by fresh legislation

Related topics: Other operators

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