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05-09-2013, 11:14
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The Morning Advertiser reports that Newcastle City Council has introduced a 50p minimum unit price condition (http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/General-News/Newcastle-council-introduces-alcohol-minimum-pricing) for all new licences and applications for licence variation across the on- and off-trade. It is described as voluntary, but no doubt a considerable amount of arm-twisting will be taking place. They have form (http://pubcurmudgeon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/then-they-came-for-pub-drinkers.html) on trying this sort of thing on before, of course.
50p per unit won’t make any meaningful difference to the on-trade, although it is still possible to buy some of the stronger real ales in my local Wetherspoon’s for below that price using a CAMRA discount token. However, it does set a precedent and one that no doubt Tim Martin will be watching very closely.
On the other hand, at least three quarters of all off-trade sales must be below 50p per unit, and it’s hard to see how any off-licence apart, perhaps, from a fine wine emporium could survive if forced to comply. And I’m sure if they seek to apply such a condition to any of the major supermarket chains they will get short shrift from their lawyers for restraint of trade.
Basically the council are just trying it on and in doing so exceeding their powers. It is not for them to dictate what prices legal businesses or allowed to charge, or what they are allowed to sell. It must be nice to be so awash with funds that you can afford to waste them on such ill-thought-out initiatives – of course, there isn’t a single unfilled pothole in the whole of the council area. Let’s hope they get a sharp legal kick-back sooner rather than later.

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