Council cracks down on stores

Date published: 05 November 2009

OLDHAM supermarkets will become the first in the country to create alcohol zones and employ extra security as part of a council crackdown on cheap booze.

Trading standards officers are writing to 17 stores across Oldham setting out proposals to review their drinks licences. If any store wants to sell booze at less than 50p per unit they must stick to certain rules.

Proposals include the creation of in-store alcohol zones with no adverts allowed to run outside these areas and no under 18s allowed in the designated booze aisles.

Extra security officers must patrol the zone and stores must display clear responsible drinking messages as well as limiting the size of alcohol adverts in store.

Councillor Mark Alcock, cabinet member for environment and infrastructure, said, “We don’t think the ‘pile it high — sell it cheap’ principle of supermarket retailing should apply to the responsible retailing of alcohol.

“While we accept that all shops must be free to compete with each other on price, we feel that this still requires social responsibility and that measures must be taken to limit the impact that this has on our communities.”

The move comes after the council completed licence reviews of all town centre bars and nightclubs that it considered to be using irresponsible drinks promotions.

Premises wanting to sell cheap alcohol had to take on measures such as post office style queues and fund extra door staff to ensure the safety of revellers.

Councillor Alcock added: “We’ve been extremely pleased with the positive response that we received from our town centre bars to our attempts to tackle irresponsible drinks promotions.

“However, they rightly pointed out that much of the problem our town centre faces with drunkenness and disorder stems from ‘pre-loading’ — where people are already drunk on cheap booze deals from supermarkets before even arriving in the town centre.

“Last Sunday, for example, in one Oldham supermarket I was able to purchase two litres of cider for £1.21, which equates to 14 pence per unit.”

The 50 pence per unit of alcoholic strength is lower than the level applied to the threshold for drinks promotions in the town centre.

In its response to the Government’s consultation on a series of mandatory conditions for drinks retailing, Oldham Council has expressed concern that the proposals fail to tackle the issue of promotions in off-licences.

Retailers have until the end of December to give their views on the proposals before the council considers whether to make changes to their drinks licences.