New alcohol laws: Shopkeepers now face £1,000 fine if they advertise beer promotions

Disappointment has been voiced at new curbs on shops, which largely ban them from advertising their deals on beer, wine, or spirits.

The changes in the law are part of the booze bill passed with cross-party agreement at Stormont on Tuesday.

All the headlines have focused on the bill’s changes for pubs – which mean larger bars will now call last orders at 2am (instead of 1am) and will not kick customers out until 3am (instead of 1.30am).

As well as relaxing the Province’s laws for pubs, the bill also imposed tight new restrictions on other kinds of sales – a fact which has gone largely unremarked-upon.

These include:

> Tightly hemming in the areas where retailers can promote discounts on alcohol;

> A promise to consider imposing a minimum price on every unit of alcohol sold;

> And new powers to jail delivery drivers who bring alcohol to under 18s.

Specifically here’s how the bill’s “explanatory memo” describes the curbs on promotions: it “restricts the advertising of drinks promotions in supermarkets to the area in which intoxicating liquor may be displayed”.

As well as restricting all drink promotions to the booze aisle inside the supermarket, the bill also prohibits any drink promotion adverts outside the premises too, banning them from within a 200 metre (roughly 656 foot) radius of the boundary of the shop.

The Assembly also has the discretion to alter this 200 metre distance in the future.

The potential punishment for breaking these rules is a £1,000 fine.

The bill also imposes a duty on the Department of Health to bring forward a law on minimum pricing of alcohol within three years.

And when it comes to delivery drivers, it says it is “an offence for a licensee or member of staff to make a home delivery of intoxicating liquor to any person under 18 years of age (punishable by a fine up to £5,000 and/or to imprisonment up to six months”.

However, there is a get-out clause: if the delivery driver has recorded how old the recipient on a “proof of age document”.

Glyn Roberts of Retail NI (which has about 2,000 members, including many small and medium supermarkets which have off-licences on their premises) hit outs at the new rules curbing advertising.

“This is something we’re not happy with,” he said.

“I think we’ve a situation where many of our members would advertise meal-deals with a bottle of wine.

“We’ve pointed out all of these things and we’re disappointed the department just didn’t listen to us.”

On the issue of minimum unit pricing, he said it was too early to comment and “we need to see the details”.

Meanwhile, regarding deliveries, the News Letter asked a number of taxi drivers how it might affect deliveries of shopping which they bring to customers’ homes.

A Twitter account belonging to a taxi driver (@Dr13ValueCabs) said: “I’ve spoken with a Tesco driver. They must ask for ID if they think customer is under 18; no ID, no delivery. I know Amazon operate a similar policy.

“Their drivers would have received training from their employers for this scenario.

“To be honest this will need to be included in future taxi periodic training to make drivers aware of the new law.”

More from this reporter:

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