The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has welcomed Conservative proposals to crackdown on the sale of below cost alcohol but warned the party that "tearing up" the Licensing Act would be counter productive.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference yesterday, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling vowed to increase the tax on super strength lagers, ciders and alcopops and ban below-cost selling by supermarkets.
He also said a future Tory Government would tear up the Government's "lax licensing regime", giving communities a right of veto over new licences in their area and giving councils the power to restrict opening hours
In addition, the Tories would increase the contribution late night operators make to policing and social costs by raising the amount they pay for their licence.
ALMR chief executive Nick Bish agreed that "bargain booze sold at pocket money prices through supermarkets and corner shops" is undoubtedly fuelling consumption.
"The licensing regime for the off trade is undoubtedly too lax," he said. "The 2003 Licensing Act swept away all restrictions on the time at which alcohol may be sold and its location in the store. As a result shoppers literally fall over displays of very cheap alcohol and drinking at home has replaced drinking in a well regulated licensed environment. A ban on below cost selling will go some way to addressing this."
But Bish raised fears that the party's proposal to tear up the Licensing Act may have unforeseen consequences for the nation's pubs
"The Tory Party must take care that in their rush to talk tough they do not inadvertently damage the thousands of community pubs they profess to want to save," he said.
"The 2003 Act took two years to introduce and imposed significant legal and administrative costs on individual pubs. We want gradual evolution not further revolution."
Responding to the specific proposal that late night businesses should contribute more to the costs of policing, Bish said: "Town centre operators already pay more for their licence and these are the very businesses which the Tories appear to want to target.
By Daniel Thomas
E-mail your comments to Caterer News here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next hotel job here with Caterersearch.com jobs