Last Orders on Drinks Promotions?
The “Buy One Get One Free” offer, “Happy Hour” and similar drinks promotions which are viewed by many in the licensed trade as a key marketing tool may soon face last orders. The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 (the “2011 Act”) which is expected to come into force in the coming months will extend the powers of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to restrict what some consider to be irresponsible drinks promotions.
Recent news reports have highlighted the growing concern over the availability of cheap alcohol and the damage it can cause to society as a whole. In addition, the first formal North/South conference on alcohol misuse, held in Armagh on 26th January 2012, proposed a cross-border strategy on minimum pricing of alcohol. This strategy may be influenced by proposals in Scotland for the introduction of a minimum charge of 45-50 pence per unit of alcohol. It is reported that, in Scotland, a bottle of cider with 14 units of alcohol, currently costing £2.30, could be increased to £7.00.
Legislation necessary to empower the Northern Ireland Assembly to give effect to some controls over pricing and irresponsible drinks promotions is already contained in Sections 4 and 5 of the 2011 Act. The types of promotions defined in Section 4 of the legislation as being “irresponsible” include promotions which:
(a) relate to alcoholic drinks likely to appeal to persons under 18 years old;
(b) involve the supply of intoxicating liquor free of charge or at a reduced price on the purchase of one or more drinks;
(c) involve the supply of one or more extra measures of intoxicating liquor free of charge or at a reduced price on the purchase of one or more drinks;
(d) involve the supply of unlimited intoxicating liquor for a fixed price (including any charge for entry to the premises);
(e) seek to encourage a person to buy or consume a larger measure of intoxicating liquor than the person otherwise intended to buy or consume;
(f) are based on the strength of any intoxicating liquor;
(g) seek to reward or encourage consumption of intoxicating liquor quickly; or
(h) offer intoxicating liquor as a reward or prize unless it is in a sealed container to be consumed off the premises.
Section 5 of the 2011 Act provides the power to implement regulations which restrict the varying of the price at which intoxicating liquor is sold during specified periods or times. It also provides power to impose regulations to restrict price discounts on a “package containing two or more intoxicating liquor products” e.g. multi-packs of beer.
When the 2011 Act is fully introduced, the above powers will only become enforceable after a draft of the specific regulations has been laid before and passed by a resolution of the Assembly. However, in light of the North/South conference’s desire to agree minimum pricing before December 2012 – watch this space.
For further information on any of the aspects covered in this article, please contact:
Joe Moore, firstname.lastname@example.org, Telephone: 028 9055 3323.