Luminar boss says pub breathalysers are 'socially unacceptable and inoperable'

By James Wallin contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Mandatory licensing conditions, Drinking culture

Peter Marks has hit out at the amount of red tape the sector is forced to deal with
Peter Marks has hit out at the amount of red tape the sector is forced to deal with
Luminar chief executive Peter Marks has warned policy makers that the late night sector is being strangled by red tape and taxation – and cannot take any more.

Marks said last week’s introduction of updated mandatory licensing conditions had seen another slew of “unintended consequences” and branded the encroaching demands for late night venues to use breathalysers as “socially unacceptable and inoperable”.

Last month the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on licensing, Adrian Lee, said efforts by the on-trade to tackle binge drinking had “barely scratched the surface of the problem”.

Marks, who took control of the UK’s largest nightclub operator three years ago, said: “He should come out with me because I have been out on the streets every weekend for 32 years.

There’s not a serving police officer in the country who has done that.

“We sell two and a half drinks per person and three decades ago do you know how many we sold — two and a half drinks per person. If drinking habits have changed then that has happened in people’s living rooms not in clubs and bars.”

Squeeze

He said police cutbacks had heaped more pressure on the on-trade, which had now “been squeezed so hard by regulation and taxation it can’t take more”.

He added: “There are a lot of things out there that seem like a good idea but as an operator you know can’t work.

“There is very little cost to putting a breathalyser on a door but it has a huge impact. There are so many caveats to how these things work — it has to be 20 minutes since they last had a drink then the higher the reading, the longer it takes to reset. Then there’s the issue of how much is too much — the reading depends on the individual.

“It’s hard enough with ID scanners and metal detectors and all of the other paraphernalia people have to go through. It’s socially unacceptable and it’s inoperable.”

Marks said that while Luminar had long promoted responsible drinking the latest mandatory licensing conditions were already being overzealously policed.

He pointed to an unnamed council that objected to a sign in one of his clubs simply saying We Love Hooch because it “could refer to drunkenness favourably and may encourage people to drink more which could lead to antisocial behaviour”.

He said: “This is just another set of rules to cover the mess they made of the Licensing Act 2003.  Our laws were better then than now, and the issues less.”

Peter Marks on........

Acquisition targets:​ “We will look at certain towns, where we feel that they are under-provided for, preferably with students and the town having some kind of vibrancy.”

Takeovers:​ “We keep an eye on a number of companies and maybe the answer would be to get a growing company and swallow that up and use the balance sheet and buying power of Luminar to help boost that company.”

Potential for public listing:​ “We don’t know what the right exit would be for current shareholders, or even when it’s likely to happen. But I think once we’ve stabilised and proved that nightclubs are an investable, sustainable, cash-generative business then I think the stock market may well be the right place to go.”

Diversification:​ “We see ourselves clearly as high street, liquor-led operators. We aren’t food-led but we understand the high street so if it was something that opened during the day and the evening that would not bother us at all — that’s very much our skillset.”

Nightclubs of the future:​ “People will continue to go out. These days they don’t go out to catch up because they do that online. They go out to have a really good time. And all the while they’re tweeting and snapchatting — sharing the fact that they’re in places.”

Music trends:​ “We have just employed a bookings manager — the likes of which have never been seen at Luminar. Before we’ve left the more
niche DJs to the more underground clubs but the niche DJs are now a lot more mainstream because of the internet.”

Optimism in the sector:​ “There definitely is that sense. Whether it’s real or not is another matter. There’s a feel-good factor, even if it isn’t a real-good factor.”

Related topics: MA Leaders Club

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