Trade fear over spread of Oldham pub plans

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Local government act 1972 Oldham

Post Office queues are under consideration in Oldham
Post Office queues are under consideration in Oldham
Council officials from Bury, Burnley, Manchester, Portsmouth and St Helens are all to visit Oldham to hear about the measures they are taking to curb promotions. The news seems to play out the trade's fear that the harsh proposals will spread.

Council officials from Bury, Burnley, Manchester, Portsmouth and St Helens are all to visit Oldham to hear about the measures they are taking to curb promotions.

The news seems to play out the trade's fear that it will now spend the next three years trying to combat similar draconian measures being implemented in other areas.

In addition, seven other councils — Newquay, Bournemouth, Norwich, Wirral, Bolton, Wolverhampton and Berkshire — have expressed an interest in Oldham's situation following the BBC Panorama programme. It has also sent out a dossier to 500 other licensing authorities.

Oldham has threatened to introduce post office style queuing, a ban on table service for drinks, seven days' notice given to the council for drinks promotions, a two drink limit at the bar and paid for policing if bars sell alcohol below 75p a unit.

"Since Panorama went to air the interest from other licensing authorities in what we have done has been growing by the hour," said Councillor Mark Alcock.

"As the BBC programme showed, Oldham is certainly not alone in suffering from the problems of alcohol misuse and anti-social behaviour — this is a nationwide problem.

"Some councils, such as Bury, Burnley, Manchester, Portsmouth and St Helens are already arranging to send officers here to see how our initiative works for themselves.

"We have also received many initial expressions of interest including, for example, from Newquay, Bournemouth, Norwich, Wirral, Bolton, Wolverhampton and Berkshire councils."

He added: "We're proud of the lead that we and our partners have taken on this and are happy to share our practice and experience with others who want to tackle irresponsible cheap drinks promotions."

Myths

Oldham is also sending out a Trading Standards dossier attempting to dispel some of the myths around what is happening in Oldham to 500 licensing authorities.

"There has been some inaccurate reporting that this was a 'blanket review' and that it was illegal or a breach of competition law," said Alcock.

"There have also been mistaken statements alleging that what we have done constitutes minimum pricing 'by the back door', that it was disproportionate or unreasonable, contrary to guidance and policy, and even that it blocks the introduction of a 'Best Bar None' scheme.

He added: "Whilst we fully accept that licensed premises must be free to operate in a competitive commercial environment, we know that irresponsible cheap drinks promotions can also be a function of that market place.

"If such promotions are run, adequate measures are needed to tackle the associated issues with public safety, nuisance, and crime and disorder. We make no apologies for acting to ensure that happens in Oldham and are certain others will follow our example."

Noctis executive director Paul Smith stressed the reality of the situation was far from that presented.

He said it had been a negotiated settlement with bars agreeing to sensible conditions such as putting extra door staff on or carrying out a risk assessment on promotions.

"My fear is that other councils will now look at this and try a similar approach.

"We could spend the next two or three years fighting this because the reality of the situation has been misrepresented."

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