Last week the Home Office published its draft amendment to mandatory licensing conditions, meaning pubs and bars must display prices of the smallest measures of alcohol “in a menu, price list or other printed material available on the premises”. Where a customer does not specify the quantity of alcohol, he or she must be “made aware these measures are available”.
It means that where products are sold or supplied for consumption on the premises, beer and cider must be available in half pints; gin, rum, vodka or whisky in 25ml or 35ml servings; and still wine in a 125ml unit.
The changes are being made to the Licensing Act 2003 and, if approved by Parliament, will come into effect on 1 October 2014.
Licensing lawyer John Gaunt said the amendments are “all about down-selling” and will create an “extra burden” for publicans.
“They are going to face additional costs, not least because they’re going to have to reprint all their menus and price lists, and ensure staff are trained.
“Certainly there will be an opportunity for somebody from Trading Standards to go into a pub and ask for a glass of wine. If they’re not offered a 125ml measure, an offence could well be committed.”
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said she is concerned the announcement was made without “re-engaging the trade and with a very short implementation timetable”.
“It is far from clear how the provision requiring customers to be made aware of measures is to be interpreted and enforced,” she added.
Peter Marks, CEO of nightclub operator Luminar, criticised the Government “meddling in what is already a highly regulated area”, and said he would much rather it focus its attention on providing guidance around the “growing issue of e-cigarettes”.
The Home Office has also tightened up the wording in relation to irresponsible promotions, stating barstaff must not carry out games or other activities which require or encourage individuals to drink a quantity of alcohol within a time limit or drink as much alcohol as possible.
Poppleston Allen partner Jonathan Smith said it is “arguable” this could include ‘happy hour’ promotions, and he will be seeking clarification from the Home Office.
He added that he does “not like” the fact that printed material citing prices of smaller measures has to be “available”, which suggests it has to be something customers can “pick up and have physically”, rather than simply something that can be “clearly seen”.
Drinkaware chief Elaine Hindal said the charity has already called for the 125ml wine glass to “come out of hiding” and added that although pubs offer the smaller measure, “too often” customers have to read the small print at the bottom of the menu to find out that it is available.