Thursday, 14 November 2013

The fightback begins

Off Licence News reports that alcohol producers are looking at taking legal action against local councils imposing “voluntary” bans on selling higher strength beer and cider in the off-trade.

Nigel McNally, managing director of Brookfield Drinks, which markets 9% abv Kestrel Super lager and 7.5% Diamond White cider, said local authorities could be bankrupted by the compensation they would be forced to pay out if they lost. Hundreds of off-licences, including the East of England Co-operative, have taken beers and ciders as low as 5.5% abv off their shelves as part of a drive to tackle street drinking, and in some cases the ban has been enshrined in premises licences.

But producers believe the schemes are illegal. McNally said: “People are being affected commercially, and when that happens companies will respond, probably collectively. Councils will be challenged and claims brought. Some councils could potentially go bust if it’s demonstrated it’s illegal, and that’s been our advice.”

Gordon Johncox, managing director of Aston Manor Brewery, which produces 7.5% Frosty Jack’s cider, added: “According to our advice super-strength bans could be breaking competition law if there is a concerted agreement between competing parties. If the local authority facilitated a dialogue it could be seen as illegal.

“A bigger issue is we’re hearing retailers feel coerced into participating, fearing they may jeopardise licences if they don’t.”

It’s also good to see producers of premium products like Henry Chevallier Guild of Aspall Cider getting involved, as they have just as much to lose, if not more, and should not deceive themselves that somehow they can avoid being tarred with the same brush.

Let us hope that the courts move swiftly to reinforce the point that councils have no right to prevent the sale of entirely legal products within their areas.

It’s also very noticeable how councils who are constantly pleading poverty and unable to provide basic services properly still seem to have money to burn on things that are none of their business. And surely, if there really is a problem with street drinking, the answer is to pass a local by-law to prohibit it (although there are concerns that can be applied in a heavy-handed manner) and then actively enforce it, rather than penalising responsible consumers as well.


  1. You let us all klow what we can do at a grass roots level Mudge. Why not organise a street protest? Pick a town penalising the gentleman poet street drinkers then get a PA system blasting out the Rocky theme in the town centre, then hand out free spesh. Get these people to sponsor your event.

    All your loyal readers will be up for a afternoon of street drinking, spesh and intimidating shoppers if it means protecting liberty.

  2. Cookie, we already have laws in place to deal with pissed up silly cunts making a nuisance of themselves under D&D and a plethora of public order offences.

    The problem arises with blanket bans on public drinking, like for instance if I were to take my wife/girlfriend out for a picnic with a hamper stuffed with foie gras, champers, a selection of fancy cheeses and a bottle of port.

    What's the odds of some local jobsworth handing out on the spot fines for public drinking? A fucking certainty.

    Being drunk in public is not an offence nor illegal, it's the disorderly bit that makes it a crime.

    If people wish to drink anti-freeze, meths or brake fluid in an attempt to get off their heads, that's entirely down to them. As long as they're not indulging in behavior that will frighten the horses, what business is it of yours or anyone elses?

  3. I don't know, I've spent many, many occasions drinking in public spaces and never once been bothered by the coppers.

    As far as I am aware, there is no rule against drinking in public, there is only a rule against continuing to drink in public after been told not to.

  4. Abuses of authority were always going to be a problem ever since Local Authorities were handed responsibility for licensing. Just look at the way that they now enforce decriminalised parking.

  5. Curious that they should object to 7.5% beer but be quite happy about off licences selling spirits at 40%

  6. Well middle class people drink 40% spirits, and its not in their mandate to persecute the middle classes.

  7. Pyo, are you serious?! Take a trip to any off-licence or supermarket most days and you'll see that the biggest buyers of spirits - mainly vodka - are often asked for ID, before they head off home to preload, prior to the on-trade taking all of the responsibility for their subsequent behaviour!


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