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‘Tourism threat’ in drinks sales cut bid

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
'Tourism threat' in drinks sales cut bid

A SUGGESTION of banning off-licence alcohol sales before 5 pm has sparked concerns from businesses in the region.

NHS public health experts have suggested sales of drink should be banned until late afternoon or evening as part of a new report on substance abuse.
Annandale Distillery outside Annan say they ‘fully support and promote responsible consumption of alcohol’, and back the minimum pricing policy.
But owner Prof David Thomson said: “Most people who consume alcohol do so responsibly and in moderation, so it would seem inappropriate and unnecessarily punitive to restrict alcohol sales until after 5 pm.
“Such restrictions would also be hugely damaging to distillery associated tourism in Scotland, which is largely a daytime activity, and upon which so many jobs, businesses and indeed the Scottish economy depend.”
The report emerging from NHS Scotland says alcohol has become ‘embedded’ in society, pointing to figures which say about three quarters of all alcohol drunk in Scotland is now bought from supermarkets or off licences.
With about 670 hospital admissions every week due to alcohol, the report said: “Restricting licensing hours would be a big help, if off-sales were not permitted until late afternoon or evening rather than from 10 am.”
However, Prof Thomson queries whether any data substantiates the claim banning daytime sales would reduce alcoholism.
And he said: “Unfortunately, it’s characteristic of people who are dependent on alcohol that they will invariably find ways of sourcing a drink, almost irrespective of any practical restrictions that could be placed on retailing.”
Dumfries drinks retailer TB Watson warn such changes would have a devastating effect.
Karen Gibson from the firm said: “If it was a 5 pm –  well, we close at 5.30 pm and we don’t intend to work evenings. It would put us out of business.”
Mrs Gibson notes alcohol can be ordered online and delivered at any time of the day, and that pubs already open from 9 am.
And she argues that changes in drinking habits are largely connected to supermarkets, and not from shops such as TB Watson where spirits are behind a counter.
She said: “Supermarkets should put all their alcohol products behind a separate counter, rather than in the aisles, if they’re really wanting to slow down drinking.
“That would make consumers more accountable for what they’re actually buying, as opposed to just shoving it in a trolley, so they’d be much more aware of their drinking habits.”a

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