Minimum alcohol pricing could boost London pubs

The introduction of minimum alcohol pricing could be just the opportunity London’s pubs need to tempt people out of their living room and into their local, according to a beer expert.

The government has announced plans to set a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol for England and Wales in a bid to tackle the country’s culture of drinking to excess. The nation’s collective drink problem leaves the UK with an estimated bill of £21bn a year.

Multi-buy discount deals would be banned under the proposals, so the cost of picking up a crate of lager or a large bottle of vodka from the supermarket may increase.

Leading beer writer and LondonlovesBusiness.com columnist Pete Brown believes minimum alcohol pricing could be good news for London’s pubs, so long as they put some thought into attracting punters back.

“I think the pubs will definitely welcome it cautiously because it will help to close the price differential which has been growing slowly,” said Brown.

“It’s good news for pubs, but whether it will drive people back is another question. Pubs must do something to bring people back as well. Price is one reason they left and probably the main one, but pubs have not been keeping up.”

While closing the price gap between the pub and the supermarket will no doubt help the cause of London’s locals, Brown believes they will have to do more than just offer comfy seats and cold beers.

Brown said: “Pubs can do some practical things, like look at coffee shops. If you are not offering coffee and free WiFi for the day time trade then you should. They should give people more excuses and reasons to go to the pub, maybe a beer you can’t get at home or live music, pub quizzes or interesting food.

“The bright pubs will now say ‘We are not that much more expensive on price, this is a good prompt to bring people back in’.”

However, Brown acknowledges that the gap between the price of a can from the supermarket and a pint in the pub is generally larger in London than anywhere else, so the impact of minimum pricing rules may not be as great.

“Maybe it won’t benefit pubs as much in London as other parts of the country where pints are cheaper, but London has not been hit as hard as other places. Not as many places have closed in London as everywhere else, from what I have seen - although some pub owners would spit their tea out at that suggestion,” he said.

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