Government set to tackle happy hour and glass sizeSmall glass of wine may return to pubs

22 July 2008

A glass of red wine

Happy hours in pubs and clubs could be banned in an attempt to promote responsible drinking, a government spokesperson has said.

The government is expected to publish the results of an independent review into the link between price promotion and alcohol abuse today.

It will then begin consultation about new legislation to regulate the industry, which could include banning happy hours, and also tackling 'supersize' wine glass sizes in pubs and bars.

Glasses of wine

An investigation by Which?, published this month, found that a small glass of wine - a 125ml measure - has all but disappeared from pubs and bars. 

Supersize measures of 175ml and even 250ml - which is a third of a bottle of wine -  have become the norm. The industry told us that that customer demand was dictating glass size. 

But the government is warning the industry that it is prepared to crack down.

Responsible marketing

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'The government has made it clear that alcohol must be sold and marketed responsibly and that new legislation will be introduced if existing voluntary standards are not being met.'

Drinks promotions and happy hours are currently regulated by individual pub companies.

A report by Alcohol Concern, published this week, showed current industry self-regulation was ineffective, and cut-price drinks deals were commonplace.

Alcohol Concern

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: 'The drinks industry's claim to champion responsible retailing is badly let down by the significant number of premises who persistently sell alcohol at cut prices.

'Self-regulation has clearly failed and we desperately need mandatory codes and an industry watchdog to stamp out the poor practice and complacency that is characteristic of many of these venues.'

Prof Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of the Alcohol Heath Alliance, added: 'Too many bars and clubs continue to put profit before their customers' health.

'This report shows the time has come for the government to step in to regulate an industry whose own efforts to tackle irresponsible alcohol sales have failed.'

Drinks promotions

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), welcomed the government review, but warned new legislation should cover all alcohol retailers.

Mark Hastings, BBPA director of communications, said: 'No-one in the industry would have any problem with the government seeking to regulate irresponsible drinks promotions but we would expect such regulations to be directed not only towards pubs, but supermarkets and corner shops, too.

'It should not be one rule for pubs and one rule for everyone else.'

A Home Office spokeswoman said: 'The government commissioned two independent reviews into the industry's social responsibility standards and on the links between pricing promotion and alcohol harm to inform our next steps.'