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Irresponsible, Unlawful…Or Just Poor Taste?

An off-licence in Crouch End has come under fire for using the name ‘Alcoholic’

An off-licence in Crouch End has come under fire for using the name ‘Alcoholic’, proudly proclaimed in large red capital letters above the front door, with an image of a stunned looking person falling to the ground and dropping a bottle.

The council have deemed the sign inappropriate, in particular claiming that it falls foul of licensing regulations regarding irresponsible promotions of alcohol, encouraging anti-social behaviour and glamorising the effects of drunkenness. They have therefore asked the off-licence to remove the sign and change the name.

This story raises all sorts of questions regarding whether an alcoholic promotion, or a step taken by a licensee is irresponsible, unlawful, in poor taste – or a combination of them all. In particular with a premises name, you may recall back in 2014 a new pub receiving much criticism for naming itself “The Job Centre” when it opened in an actual disused job centre.

The mandatory conditions which apply to all premises licences do prohibit certain actions and activities being carried out on licensed premises. However, the conditions regarding irresponsible sales relate specifically to consumption on the premises. Whether the off-licence in question authorised on sales will be a matter of fact. However it is incumbent upon licensees to ensure that they uphold the licensing objectives and act responsibly.

What may also be an issue for this off-licence operator is whether they have fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority ‘CAP Code’. The code prescribes that any marketing in relation to alcohol must be; “socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. For example, it should not encourage excessive drinking.” Portraying an addiction in this way is unlikely to be deemed socially responsible, neither is the apparent glamorising of drinking excessively portrayed by the cartoon person. If the ASA receives a complaint and investigates then they could also require the removal of the offending material (had the council not got there first).

This is a timely reminder, in the festive season, that promotions and actions that seem like a great idea at first can look very different in the cold light of day.

For further information on this or any other licensing issue, contact any of our licensing solicitors, found here.

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