Radical plans to ban alcohol advertising across Blackpool have been tabled in a bid to tackle the resort’s toll of booze-fuelled health problems.
A new bye-law could be introduced by town hall bosses which bans pubs, clubs and off-licences from advertising alcohol on the exterior of their premises.
And a town hall task group has called for booze adverts to be banned from buses, trams and taxis in the town. The resort is already consulting on introducing a controversial Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) forcing pubs and clubs to close at 3am.
It is also proposed to adopt a formal policy banning alcohol-related ads on council property.
Council bosses today said the plans could help tackle Blackpool’s toll of alcohol-related illness and early death. But licensees said the move was a step too far and accused the council of being “anti-alcohol”.
A report produced by councillors says there were concerns over “how alcohol advertising helped to encourage an acceptance of drinking and that the harms caused by alcohol consumption were disguised by the constant positive images of alcohol and drinking behaviour.”
Coun Tony Lee who led a scrutiny panel task group into the issue, said; “Alcohol is a major problem in Blackpool and we have to try and do what we can.”
Figures published in March showed more people in Blackpool die early due to booze than anywhere else in the country.
Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows the resort has the highest mortality rate from alcohol-related liver disease in under 75s in England – 35 per 100,000 of the population due to liver disease – compared to just 16.43 in neighbouring Fylde and Wyre.
Coun Lee added: “We know this is a holiday resort and we don’t want to be spoilsports.
“But there are areas of Blackpool where the number of stores selling alcohol has reached saturation point and it is all being advertised in the front of these shops.”
The council can use its licensing powers to act against premises it considered to be advertising an irresponsible drinks promotion. But a byelaw would be required to prevent any exterior advertising.
The council’s scrutiny committee has agreed a recommendation to investigate the possibility of introducing the legislation.
That recommendation, and others which were accepted, will now go to the town hall’s executive for consideration. If it agrees then a feasibility study will be launched into introducing a byelaw, which would then consider exactly what advertising would be included and how it would be enforced.
There is no alcohol advertising on the council’s own publications, while Blackpool Transport does not accept alcohol advertising anyway.
But Dave Daly, North West chairman of licensees for the Unite union, said licensed premises relied on advertising for custom.
He said: “This council is completely anti-alcohol, and yes we know there is a problem.
“But the alcohol strategy is disjointed and the council needs to start talking to the trade because alcohol is a big part of Blackpool’s business.
“There are 4,500 jobs in Blackpool’s night time economy.”
Craig Southall, boss of Blackpool Pub Watch and manager of Yates’s in Market Street, said: “I don’t think this is the right way to go. It is taking away the right of businesses to compete. I understand what the council wants to do, but they would be better off educating people to use alcohol responsibly.”
But Coun Sarah Riding, cabinet member for health on Blackpool Council, said: “As a town we do have a dreadful problem with alcohol.
“Advertising shows people enjoying alcohol and relaxing.
“That might be OK in some areas, but that’s not the picture for a lot of people in Blackpool for who alcohol means a massive amount of misery.”
“The cost to some families can be huge, so it’s important we help ensure people don’t go down that path.”
Marlene Elmore, landlady of Lucy’s@Tobago on Talbot Road, said: “I have a bit of advertising outside but it doesn’t make any difference to people coming in so advertising isn’t causing a problem.
“The council’s got its priorities wrong. It should be doing more to help businesses because a lot of the small pubs in Blackpool are struggling now.”
One off-licence owner, who asked not to be named, said: “We don’t put drinks advertising in the window anyway. But if people want to drink, they will do it anyway.”
The scrutiny committee also agreed recommendations a policy be agreed banning booze ads on council property and publications, and to ban alcohol advertising from taxis as part of licensing policy.
Currently there is no alcohol advertising on council controlled advertising space but the scrutiny report says “a formal policy prohibiting such advertising would clearly set out the council’s position on this issue and prevent alcohol products from being advertised on council operated advertising asset in the future.”
The other recommendations approved were to include a clause within taxi licensing policy “that alcohol advertising is not permitted on any part of a carriage/vehicle”, that Blackpool Transport and Stagecoach bus companies “be requested to take steps to prevent alcohol being advertised on their buses”.
Blackpool Transport said it does not accept alcohol advertising on its buses and trams.
A blanket ban on alcohol advertising is already in place in some countries, including Russia and Norway.
Blackpool Council’s licensing committee will meet next month to discuss controversial proposals for the UK’s first Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) which would ban booze being sold after 3am in the majority of the town centre.