‘Cheap booze is killing pubs’

Bar manager Tim Gilbert.
Bar manager Tim Gilbert.
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A HARTLEPOOL pub boss is demanding Government action to ease pressure on small businesses by taking action on cheap supermarket alcohol.

Tim Gilbert, the general manager for Red Sugar Ltd who own Loons, Bar Paris and Skyy Lounge in Hartlepool, is backing calls for a minimum unit price on alcohol.

His support came as a survey showed 16 British pubs a week were calling last orders for the last time.

In addition, half of the region’s landlords say their profits have fallen over the previous 12 months, while a third expect this decline to continue over the year ahead.

This weekend marks the seventh anniversary of the Government’s decision to change the legislation and allow pubs and clubs to open around the clock.

The research was published today by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, which is calling for a miniumum unit price on alcohol

Balance campaigners say the sale of cheap supermarket alcohol is a key reason for declining trade, with eight in 10 landlords admitting that supermarket price promotions have damaged business over the past five years.

Mr Gilbert said: “A minimum unit price is an important part of reducing the problems caused by alcohol misuse.

“The Government has an ideal opportunity to protect small business by closing the huge price gap that exists between supermarkets and pubs.

“If they are serious about protecting us, we need a minimum unit price of at least 50p, which will have a meaningful impact on cheap supermarket alcohol, while having no effect on pub prices.”

Mr Gilbert is one of a number of publicans to have written to Michael Fallon MP, Business and Enterprise Minister, asking him to back small business and put his weight behind a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “It’s no surprise that alcohol sold at pocket-money prices is having a major impact on the livelihoods of those working in the region’s pub trade.

“The introduction of a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit of alcohol would help level the playing field by closing the price gap that exists between pubs and supermarkets.

“This would make ‘pre-loading’ or getting drunk at home before a night out less financially appealing and help breathe life back into the British community pub – a hugely important part of this country’s small business backbone.”

As part of the campaign, participating pubs have received beer mats and posters encouraging customers to visit www.balancenortheast.co.uk/mup and back a minimum unit price.

Mr Gilbert added: “Anyone who loves their local, or the Great British Pub for that matter, needs to sign up to this campaign. There are many factors which are threatening our trade – but supermarkets really do have a stranglehold on pubs. This measure will give us some breathing space.”