By Matthew Lynas
Bar and pub operators across Scotland are continuing to suffer a downturn in trade as a result of the lower drink drive limit, a year after its introduction.
Licensees have told SLTN that customer behaviour has changed since the limit for drink driving offences was reduced from 80mg in every 100ml of blood to 50mg on December 5, 2014.
Phil McKenna, owner of The Anglers Inn in Perthshire, which first opened its doors five months before the legislation was introduced, said he had noticed a marked change in drinking behaviour.
“It’s been really noticeable and we were new to the business so maybe we were a bit wet behind the ears but it has had a big impact,” said McKenna.
“We used to have a bustling wee bar next door [to the restaurant] that people would use and people would have a glass of wine with their meals but now it’s all cans of Coke.”
Trevor Lockwood, owner of the Seafield Lodge in Grantown-on-Spey, said he had also noticed a decline in drinks sales, but over a longer timeline.
“We never really know if it’s (drink drive legislation) that’s directly affected trade but with the changing of the licensing laws and the drink driving – we’ve come out of the recession but we’re continuing to see drinks sales decline,” said Lockwood. “The end result of this is [the government] is going to lose revenue. They get a much bigger percentage from our takings than [from the] supermarkets.
“They’re on a course to disaster if they keep going the way they are.”
Stuart Fraser of The Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha reckons his venue’s sales have been protected by its food and accommodation business.
“All I’m hearing are the horror stories, but because we are so food-driven and also have a focus on accommodation, our sales have not been affected,” he said.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said there is “no doubt” that drink drive legislation has “put pressure on pubs, particularly in rural areas”.
“We would like both the UK and the Scottish Governments to help pubs in other ways, with strong support for further reductions in beer duty during this Parliament, and tackling the huge business rates burden faced by community and high street pubs”.