Bars could be banned from offering free alcohol to women and restaurants may be obliged to serve wine in glasses with marked measures under new proposals being considered by the government, it emerged yesterday.
The moves are intended to cut public drunkenness - and its attendant health and social problems - by encouraging people to drink sensibly.
Other initiatives under consideration include the compulsory display of health warnings wherever alcohol is sold, curbs on free wine, whisky and beer tastings and a ban on drinking games.
The Home Office and the Department of Health said that draft proposals had been issued as part of a consultation on the government's alcohol strategy - Safe, Sensible, Social - which is due to end on Tuesday. The proposals were disclosed in the Sunday Times, which saw a copy of the code for the drinks industry.
The document notes that the introduction of 24-hour drinking has failed to bring about the shift in behaviour that some had hoped for and that a more continental "cafe culture" has not been widely adopted. It criticises many prevalent attitudes to alcohol and warns that drinks should not be promoted as a way of enhancing an individual's "social, sexual, physical, mental and financial or sporting performance".
The health warnings would include a graphic telling the drinker how many units their glass or bottle contains, a statement from the chief medical officer on safe drinking and the address of a website offering information on moderate alcohol consumption.
Licensees reacted angrily to the prospect of further regulation, saying that, given the current economic situation, they needed a more restrictive code like a "hole in the head".
Mark Hastings, of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "At a time when the economy and business is under severe pressure it's government's role to support business, not send in a wrecking crew with the ball and chain of further regulation. Government needs to wake up to the fact that five pubs a day are closing."
Hastings added that the Licensing Act already gave powers to take steps against any of the UK's 186,000 venues that were causing problems.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed that a draft of "a possible code" had been sent to bar and restaurant owners. "It's not a statement of government policy," he said. "It was to give government stakeholders an idea of what the code is going to say. You might assume that the thrust will be the same if the details change."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Although no final decision has been made, the government's initial belief is that the code should be revised with a view to making it mandatory in retail premises that sell alcohol."
# Sam Jones and Robert Booth
# The Guardian,
# Monday October 13 2008