The beleaguered pub trade needs some help. At the moment, apparently 54 pubs a month are closing (an average of 1.7-something a day) and the trade has an incredibly bad image thanks to just a handful of people. Here are some guidelines I would give the Chancellor if I could have just five minutes of his time:
- Ban supermarkets and other off-trade premises such as garage forecourts from advertising the price of their alcohol. Fair enough, I’ll grant that you can’t govern the price they sell at or how they negotiate their buy-prices, but you can stop them from boasting about it. This would go a long way towards stopping minors and binge-drinkers from constantly being bombarded with cheap alcohol prices.
- Change the age that people can buy alcohol from such off-trade establishments from. Anybody under the age of 21 cannot purchase alcohol from supermarkets, for example, although it would still be legal for 18-21 year olds to purchase from public houses. This would have the effect of helping the pub trade, it would allow those in that bracket to learn to be socially responsible and it would mean that people were drinking in a safe and managed environment, rather than encouraging the young to go and drink copious amounts at home before going out and spoiling the party for everybody else.
- Alter the current tax system to lower the tax for beer sold on-trade. Keg/Cask beer – i.e. beer sold from a pump in a pub – for example, would be eligible to a lower rate of tax than that sold in a supermarket by the bottle. This would give the on-trade a reprieve from draconian taxation that they so desperately need right now and would encourage more people to use their local than drink in solitude at home.
Something similar’s been done for cigarettes in terms of advertising and the age of purchasing them. It’s only a thought, but it might just work…