'Making fizzy water look like a G&T': Pubs adapt to drink-drive law change

'Making fizzy water look like a G&T': Pubs adapt to drink-drive law change
By: Business Posted On: December 08, 2019 View: 20

'Making fizzy water look like a G&T': Pubs adapt to drink-drive law change

A tougher drink-drive limit in Scotland has had little long-term financial impact on pub trade profits, according to new research.

The study by Stirling University says both landlords and customers have adapted to the change, with less after-work drinking and more people leaving the pub earlier on weekdays.

The Scottish government introduced legislation in 2014 to reduce the legal alcohol limit for driving from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood.

The tighter restrictions have also led to changes in pubs, with bars offsetting losses by introducing a greater range of food and selling drinks with no or little alcohol.

Owners have also changed the presentation of drinks, with one admitting to making a sparkling water "look like a gin and tonic".

Stirling University associate professor Niamh Fitzgerald, who led the study, said: "The findings are of international relevance as lower drink-drive limits are being considered in other countries, with debates including discussions around the impact on business.

"We found a broad acceptance of the change in legislation, with most reporting no persistent financial impact on their businesses - despite some changes in customer behaviour.

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"The findings of our study ought to provide policymakers with some reassurance that the on-trade alcohol retail sector may be able to successfully adapt business practices and products offered in the context of a reduced drink-drive limit."

23,494 people were admitted to hospital with an alcohol related issue in 2017-18
Image: Rural pubs were more likely to report a negative economic impact, study finds

The study found most bar owners were supportive of the limit change and the majority reported there had been no overall impact on their profits.

Some reported a short-term impact, lasting around six to 12 months, but profits later returned to normal.

Rural pubs in the study were more likely to report a negative economic impact, while "urban food-led establishments" were less likely as customers continued to eat out, switching alcohol for soft drinks.

There was a general belief more people had stopped drinking alcohol entirely if they had to drive.

One pub manager said: "We're quite happy to change to whatever means we have to do.

"If the drink-driving limit has gone down then we need to offer different things to attract folk in.

"Generally, some of the older-style pubs don't really cater for that and just don't want to know that. So they might have lost out a bit on that."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We welcome the findings of this report which shows that businesses have adapted in light of changed consumer behaviour following the reduction of the drink-drive limit."

The study, published in Drug and Alcohol Review, was funded by the Chief Scientist's Office, Scotland, and included work by staff at NHS Forth Valley, the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian University.

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