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Alcohol proposals offer 'carrot and stick' says Botkai

30 November, 2012

If the new alcohol proposals announced this week are enacted, they will impact on forecourt stores licensed to sell alcohol and those seeking new licences or variations to existing licences, according to Robert Botkai, head of property and licensing at Winckworth Sherwood solicitors.

The Consultation on delivering the Government’s policies to cut alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour was published on November 28, 2012.

"The Government is proposing to introduce a 45p per unit minimum price. This is controversial," said Botkai. "The European Union has declared that a 50p minimum price in Scotland is disproportionate as it would impact on imports and also hit the entire population. The 45p proposal for England and Wales will also be challenged and so it is unlikely to be in force any time soon."

Regarding the proposal to ban multi-buy promotions in the off trade, Botkai said he was not sure how this would impact on the online business, membership warehouse clubs let alone supermarkets and forecourt stores, many of whom have promotional offers: "We already have a mandatory condition for the on trade banning irresponsible promotions and perhaps this is the answer here."

The Government wants to include the promotion of public health as a licensing objective. If a licensing authority considers there to be over-provision, an applicant in that area would need to establish that the grant of a licence or variation would not impact on the public health, according to Botkai: "This, if applied literally, is a virtually impossible test and amounts to a veto."

There is a proposal to relax the ban on alcohol at motorway service areas, but possibly excluding the petrol forecourt stores. "This is a complex area as the current ban depends on who owns the land," said Botkai.

The proposal on late night refreshment could be good news, according to Botkai. The Government will consider exempting certain categories of premises from the late-night refreshment regime. They mention motorway service areas, but this is an opportunity for the forecourt sector to seek an exemption.

The Government will consider reducing the bureaucracy of personal licences and in particular the requirement to renew after 10 years. Also to remove the requirement to advertise applications for premises licences in newspapers. "Yes please!" stressed Botkai.

"So in all, we have the carrot of some reduction in red tape (we have heard this before) but in return a far more restrictive set of rules for the off trade. Responses to the Consultation must be made no later than February 6, 2013," said Botkai.