Scots pubs mull action over happy hour ban

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) is threatening to report the Scottish Executive to the Office of Fair Trading over its plans to ban “happy hours”, two-for-one drinks and other price-cutting promotional deals in Scottish pubs and bars.

The ban is part of attempts by the Scottish government to curb underage and binge drinking. The Licensing (Scotland) Bill, which is going through the committee stage in the Scottish Parliament, was last month amended to ban promotions, which “encourage or seek to encourage a person to buy or consume a larger measure of alcohol than the person had otherwise intended to buy or consume.” If the Bill is adopted, its provisions would become law in 2007.

The SBPA, which represents 1,500 of Scotland’s 5,200 pubs, says the latest change would effectively dictate how much the pubs can charge customers for drinks. SBPA chief executive Patrick Browne says the amendment would make it hard for pubs to introduce new drinks by offering them at a lower price as part of a promotion. He adds: “We are fully supportive of any measures to tackle irresponsible promotions, indeed our members are already doing that, but this catch-all clause goes too far.”

The SBPA plans to write to the Office of Fair Trading to ask it to take action.

In May, drinks giant Diageo said it would welcome restrictions on happy hours and other price promotions being extended to cover all alcohol sales in the off-trade as well as the on-trade (MW May 12). But Diageo has opposed a blanket ban on all discounting on multiple purchases, and was planning on lobbying members of the Scottish Parliament to relax the section of the draft Bill governing “irresponsible promotions”.

Diageo says that while it supported moves to ban happy hours and deep discounts on multiple purchases, it believed price reduction was a valid promotional tool if used responsibly.

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