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Student promotions

What points to consider when expanding into the student market

Q:  I manage a pub in a university town and the students are returning for the new term. I am keen to expand my business into the student market, starting with some drinks promotions during Freshers’ Week.  I know the mandatory conditions on my premises licence restrict certain types of promotions but I’m not too clear on what I can and can’t do. Can you help?

A:  Premises licences which permit the sale of alcohol are subject to mandatory conditions. These conditions do not always physically appear on all premises licences, but they must be complied with nonetheless. Responsibility for compliance with these conditions lies with the “responsible person”, who is the Premises Licence Holder, Designated Premises Supervisor or an adult authorised by the Premises Licence Holder or Designated Premises Supervisor. 

The mandatory condition banning irresponsible drinks promotions requires the responsible person to take steps to ensure that their staff do not ‘carry out, arrange or participate in irresponsible promotions’. Taking steps may include staff training and good management practices and controls to ensure irresponsible drinks promotions do not occur on the premises.

Certain activities are banned outright, including pouring alcohol directly into the mouth of a customer (known as a “dentist’s chair”) and drinking games (or other activities) that encourage customers to drink as much alcohol as possible.

Drinks promotions include discounting drinks, such as 2-4-1 or “Happy Hours”. These are regulated by the mandatory condition. Providing alcohol for a fixed or discounted price in unlimited or unspecified quantities will only be permitted as long as it does not carry a significant risk of undermining a licensing objective. 

Determining whether a particular promotion would be permitted is subjective and you will need to think about what will happen during the promotion and the likely effect. Government Guidance recommends you consider (although this list in not exhaustive) the type of promotion, including the price of the alcohol and how long it will run for, the likely customer base and the type of premises and its history. You should carefully plan the promotion and have clear and robust management procedures in place. You may also decide to carry out a risk assessment. 

For example, a promotion where students can drink as much as they like for £10 may be considered irresponsible, as there is no limit on how much they can drink. It would be more likely to be responsible if you specify the amount of alcohol to be included in the price, for example, limiting the promotion to three drinks per person. 

The mandatory condition also bans free or discounted alcohol or any other thing (including t-shirts, loyalty cards, etc.) as a prize to encourage or reward the consumption of alcohol over a period of 24 hours or less if there is a significant risk that it would undermine a licensing objective.

You should monitor and control any flyers, posters, online promotion or other marketing material.  A further mandatory condition bans the sale of alcohol in association with promotional material on, or in the vicinity of, the premises which can be reasonably considered to condone, encourage or glamorise antisocial behaviour or refer to drunkenness favourably. Carefully consider the words and images on any promotional material to make sure you comply. 

Make sure price promotions comply with the minimum pricing mandatory condition.  A promotion may be deemed irresponsible before, during or even after the event and the authorities could take enforcement action including reviewing your premises licence. 

If in any doubt you should talk to your local police, licensing and environmental health officers and take legal advice.

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