Drinks promo crackdown starts

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Drinks, Essex

Luminar has ended its all inclusive deal in Colchester
Luminar has ended its all inclusive deal in Colchester
Colchester bars have been ordered to ditch promotions offering a set number of drinks for a fixed entry fee — and are "encouraged" to stick to a...

Colchester bars have been ordered to ditch promotions offering a set number of drinks for a fixed entry fee — and are "encouraged" to stick to a minimum drinks price.

It's seen as the first major promotions crackdown under the mandatory alcohol retailing code, less than one month after the ban on "irresponsible" deals came in on 6 April.

In addition, Luminar has shunned a police and council-backed "gentleman's agreement" not to sell drinks below £1.50 in the Essex town, saying it risks breaking competition law.

A letter from Colchester Borough Council to local licensees, seen by the Morning Advertiser, aims to help venues interpret the new guidance on drinks promotions under the code.

It says council and police believe events offering a fixed price for a "high" number of drinks are "substantially similar" to the all-inclusive deals explicitly banned under the code.

"Any establishment still running these events must stop or face [licence] review," it states.

Escape nightclub has now stopped its deal offering entry and 12 drinks for £14.95, which replaced an all-inclusive promotion. Luminar's Liquid & Envy has also stopped offering free entry and 12 drinks for £13.50.

The council's letter also promises "much closer scrutiny" of venues that "negatively and irresponsibly" sell alcohol below £1.50 per drink.

The issue was raised at a meeting with licensees, police and the council on 20 April.

"Licensees were encouraged to set an agreed minimum price for drinks discounts," said Luminar operations director Peter Turpin.

"We informed the authorities that we have been legally advised that this could be deemed an illegal price collusion. Consequently, we would be unable to partake in such an agreed pricing arrangement."

Escape's general manager Damien Stone agreed to stick to the pricing agreement, but criticised the council for forcing him to stop his latest drinks promotion: "If they are going to tackle [disorder] they are going to have to tackle all the deals that are out there, including the supermarkets."

Inspector Paul Butcher said: "While out on patrol last weekend I was very disappointed to find many venues had ignored the change in legislation.

"There appeared to be some confusion about the application of the new law, so we invited representatives from the main venues to a meeting at Colchester police station.

"We gave strong advice to them about the type of promotions that are now banned and the action that would be taken if they continued."

Alcohol code still lacks clarity

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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