Pubs hit out as shops sell cheap booze
Underage drinking 'out of control'
Published 05/12/2010 | 05:00
THE 70 cent bottle of supermarket beer, half the price of a bottle of sparkling water, is creating a generation of young problem drinkers and driving the pub trade to the wall, publicans have claimed.
They also allege that below- cost selling and the financial muscle of the big multiples means that supermarkets are able to sell alcohol at a price publicans can never match.
Alcohol sales decreased by 14 per cent in the first eight months of this year, and they have declined by approximately 24 per cent in the past three years. And almost all of that reduction has been in pub sales.
One publican told the Sunday Independent that he has seen a massive rise in the number of people, especially women, who he has had to ban from entering the pub because they are already drunk after consuming alcohol at home.
"It is crazy. One night recently when the pub was very quiet, I was faced with having to turn away a group of women who were absolutely drunk, having drunk at home.
"At the weekends, when the youngsters come out, most have already had too much to drink -- vodka and other spirits. A lot of young men are now drinking vodka at home rather than pints," the publican said.
Vintners Federation Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said: "Below-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets is destroying the pub sector."
Higher levels of drinking at home were creating "a major problem" with underage drinking as it was "very hard to control" intake in the home, he said.
Mr Cribben added that the pub trade was in turmoil. "Our main competitor is allowed to sell alcohol below cost, market it and promote it in a somewhat cavalier way and treat it as a loss leader in the same way as it might otherwise treat biscuits, bananas, beans or any other grocery product. It does this against the background of a so-called 'voluntary code of practice' which is allegedly independently monitored.
"However, it is very difficult to see the independence in the monitoring when the watchdog is financed by the operator," he told the Joint Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs.
He said that publicans must negotiate with their major suppliers as independent operators at a time when the supermarkets, under the strength and guise of one commercial organisation, can use the combined power of hundreds of outlets to achieve significant price reductions.
Overall consumption of alcohol per capita has dropped over the past three to four years.
Five or six years ago, in excess of 70 per cent of all alcohol was consumed in the pub. By 2009, just 45 per cent of drink was being consumed in pubs.