Local Liquor Licensing Law - Have Your Say

Friday 4 March 09:23

Local retailers concerned about proposed new licensing laws

An Island-wide petition will be launched to highlight the shortcomings of the Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture Department’s current consultation on a new Liquor Licensing Law. Part of the new law proposes sweeping changes by banning promotions and special offers on alcohol sold in supermarkets, wine merchants and other popular off-licence outlets.

Local retailers are behind the petition to help raise awareness of the proposed ban because they don’t believe the policy will work. Whilst welcoming the Government’s concern about the impact of alcohol misuse on individuals and society as a whole, retailers, and the Chamber of Commerce, think it will unfairly impact all consumers of alcoholic drinks regardless of their levels of consumption.

The consultation report highlights that the majority of Jersey residents who drink alcohol, do so sensibly. A study of similar legislation elsewhere, by the Behaviour and Health Research unit of the University of Cambridge,found no evidence that the ban on multi-buy drinks promotions reduced the purchasing of alcohol. Consumers actually shopped more often for alcohol ‘but the overall amount purchased was largely unchanged’.

SandpiperCI’s CEO Tony O’Neill said: “We very much support the responsible selling of alcohol and support improvements in training and education for all involved. However, we are puzzled the consultation report highlights that the ‘majority of the population drinks and that for the most part do so sensibly’, so why penalise the vast majority of island consumers by proposing to stop any price promotions on their favourite tipple?”

The proposed promotions ban also seeks to reduce the price gap between pubs, clubs hotels etc and off-licence businesses such as supermarkets and wine merchants. The ban will also include annual retail special offers on the run up to Christmas, New Year and other seasonal celebrations.

The Channel Islands Co-Operative Society’s Chief Operating Officer, Mark Cox commented: “The Society fully supports the intention of the new law, however we believe that the proposal to remove special offers in retail outlets is ill considered and will not only be very difficult to enforce, but are unconvinced that it will have the impact desired by the Government. It is ill-targeted to use such a blunt policy instrument that impacts upon all consumers of alcoholic drinks regardless of whether or not the groups concerned have anything to do with alcohol misuse. 

“Furthermore, the proposal would restrict consumer choice and is an insufficiently targeted approach to a complex problem.We believe that the most effective public policy interventions on alcohol misuse will be targeted at those who have a problematic relationship with alcohol, not the majority of the population who do not.”

The unit price of alcohol has risen considerably in Jersey over recent years, partly as a result of year-on-year increases inimpôts duty. The above-inflation increases have not had any significant impact on the volume of alcohol being sold. Retailers also wonder how the authorities intend to police the proposed legislation because they believe it is difficult to decide what constitutes a promotion or an everyday low price.

There is also concern if Jersey’s off-licence prices creep ahead of nearby jurisdictions such as Guernsey, France and the UK, it is likely to promote the development of cross-border alcohol trade.

A Chamber of Commerce spokesman said: “The new licensing laws are long overdue and whilst we welcome the consultation and review, we are disappointed to see there is intervention regarding retailers’ ability to run their own businesses. We obviously want the law to offer protection to the more vulnerable members of our society, however removing the prospect of special offers during key trading periods may well increasecross border trading and impact trade for island retailers which will have an affect on GST revenues and reduce the tax take from local businesses.

To highlight their concerns, retailers will be raising awareness of the States’ consultation on the proposed new liquor licensing laws via marketing and social media channels.The island-wide petition will be available for islanders to sign in many island shops including: SandpiperCI and Channel Islands Co-Operative stores from this weekend.

The Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture Department’s consultation on the proposed new liquor licensing laws closes on 19th April. Islanders wishing to comment directly can email:  licensinglaw@gov.je

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