Islington Council ask shops in problem areas to boycott super-strength booze

Alcohol Pic: Rui Vieira/PA

Alcohol Pic: Rui Vieira/PA - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Several off-licences in Islington are being asked to limit the sale of “super-strength” alcoholic drinks in order to help reduce anti-social behaviour.

Islington Council sent letters to shop owners in the Exmouth Market area, last Friday, asking them to “work with the Council and our partners to voluntarily reduce the availability of high-strength lager, beer, and cider from their premises.”

This appeal is part of a nationwide campaign that encourages off-licences to restrict the sale of cheap so-called “super-strength” brands, including Carlsberg’s Special Brew and Gaymer’s K Cider.

The council is recommending that businesses introduce an optional condition to their licences which would severely limit the sale of any drink with 6.5 per cent alcohol or higher, suggesting a price of £1.95 or above per 500ml.

Mukesh Majithia, who owns a Nisa off-licence near Northampton Square, said he supported the council but would not take any action until he had spoken to other businesses.

Mr Majithia said: “There are sometimes alcoholics who buy booze in the shops and drink in the park. I agree with any rules that help improve the local area and will go along with the council so long as bigger shops do also.”

According to the council letter, there is a link between these high-strength alcoholic drinks and crime levels in the borough.

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Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at the charity Alcohol Concern, agreed. She said: “People are fed up dealing with the crime and anti-social behaviour caused by people drinking cheap, strong booze and this campaign shows what communities can achieve when they come together to tackle this problem.”

A recent Alcohol Concern study concluded that super-strength ciders, such as White Ace, and similar drinks were becoming like “heroin among alcoholics” due to their high alcohol content and cheap price.

A single can of white cider at 7.5 per cent ABV exceeds the recommended daily alcohol intake for an adult woman, but can be purchased for as little as 95p in some shops – less than a bottle of water. It can be purchased at the Best One on Goswell Road, whose proprietor said that they had not received a letter from the council.

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, suggests that limiting the sale of super-strength drinks would benefit the public because many people aren’t aware of how many units they are drinking.

She said: “It is not unusual for people to under-report how much alcohol they drink, whether that’s intentional or not.

“People don’t tend to understand differences in sizes and strengths of popular drinks, or might be unwilling to admit to themselves and others exactly how much they drink. Consumers need to be aware of the unit guidelines and how this equates to their own drinking.”

But the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the industry body that represents local shops, opposes any voluntary removal scheme until the council provides clear proof of a link between street drinking and anti-social behaviour.

Shane Brennan, public affairs director at ACS said: “Local shops have a role to play in tackling street drinking and we are keen to support schemes that are based on clear evidence, effectively targeted and based on genuine partnership.

“However, the voluntary removal of a product is not a magic bullet that removes a street drinking problem and we would strongly oppose any moves to force retailers to take part.”