14 March 2012

The representative body of the pub trade in Northern Ireland, Pubs of Ulster, has called on the licensed trade to refrain from offering drinks promotions over the St. Patrick's Day weekend, especially in the Holylands area of south Belfast.

The move comes ahead of what will be one of the busiest weekends for the pub industry, with thousands of people expected to enjoy the festivities on offer in pubs across Northern Ireland. The call also comes in the wake of a series of incidents in recent weeks, which have highlighted the need for a responsible approach to alcohol promotions by the entire licensed trade.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster said:

"The safety and wellbeing of customers is of paramount importance to Pubs of Ulster and our members, especially during busy periods such as St Patrick's Day. Whilst we recognise that the majority of anti-social behaviour is often a result of on street drinking- with alcohol purchased from supermarkets at incredibly cheap prices - our industry must play its part and not engage in any practice that encourages the misuse or abuse of alcohol.

"As we have seen in recent years, the Holylands area has often been at the centre of alcohol related anti-social behaviour during the St Patrick's Day celebrations. Nobody wants to see a repeat of the shocking scenes from a few years ago and we recognise that pubs have a part to play in preventing this. Pubs of Ulster has written to all licensed premises in the Holylands area of Belfast to call on them to refrain from engaging in drinks promotions, asking them to consider very carefully the impact any alcohol promotions could have on their customers, their community and their business."

Pubs of Ulster has praised pubs, especially those in the Holylands area, which are already working in partnership with local community representatives to reduce any anti-social behaviour. Many in the trade have also taken steps to help reduce the chances of anti-social behaviour over the St Patrick's Day holiday, with off-sales removing glass bottles from sale and pubs running special events to attract people off the streets and into the controlled environment of the pub.

Colin Neill concludes:

"St Patrick's Day is a great opportunity for all pubs to showcase all that is good about the local pub trade. It is also our opportunity to show the responsible side of the industry, by offering a safe and controlled environment where people can come and enjoy themselves. However, it is important to remember that supermarkets continue to sell alcohol at incredibly low prices, contributing to the high levels of on street drinking previously seen during St Patrick's Day. It is clear that this is an issue that must be addressed and I am calling on supermarkets to admit some responsibility for the scenes we have witnessed in the Holylands over the last few years and stop irresponsible promotions."