Off-trade

Minimum pricing here before end of year?

It’s likely that minimum pricing and further constraints on how alcohol can be promoted will be introduced here before the end of the year.

Minimum pricing is likely to follow similar steps taken in Scotland where a minimum price of 50 pence has been agreed. NI will be introducing its own minimum price next year while England and Wales are likely to follow suit in October 2014.

In NI, the Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland  has agreed to implement the recently-published Joint Industry Code for the Responsible  Promotion and Retail of Alcohol in Northern Ireland (2012) for a trial period of two years and if it’s not working, draw down legislation that is even more strict, explained Pubs of Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill.

In the meantime, he’s likely to ban irresponsible promotions such as “all-you-can-drink” offers.

The newly launched NI Code is similar to that already in existence here but it applies to both on- and off-licences in NI. In addition, it is hoped the NI Code will be tied into liquor licence renewals.

“As our liquor licensing takes the form of renewals every five years” explained Colin Neill, “we don’t feel that this will have a quick enough impact and are hoping therefore that the Code will also be linked to obtaining Entertainment Licences here”.

He added, “An important element of the Code is how alcohol will be served so that ‘three-beers-for-a-fiver’ served to one person would be seen as irresponsible but not if sold to three people”.

It’s also believed that in addition to launching this Code, Minister McCausland intends introducing more severe legislation in the near future with heavier penalties for errant retailers to keep the multiples in line. Meanwhile Ministers on both sides of the border are understood to be working to introduce the same minimum price legislation and promotional Code adjustments on each side of the border in relation to alcohol.

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