Pints for pennies:a public risk?

Deputy News Editor 15 January 2009

Financially embattled students may at last have a reason to celebrate this January as the price of a pint plummets to just 99p. However the new offer, which is given by The Regal pub on St Andrews Street, has caused some controversy amongst health campaigners, who say it will encourage binge drinking.

The leader of the Cambridge city council, Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith, is looking into whether the pub should have its license reviewed. He has suggested that the new deal could lead to alcohol fuelled trouble in the area.

The councillor, speaking to the Cambridge Evening news, said “By cutting beer prices, this pub chain is encouraging people to drink more.”

“I am worried this could lead to more problems for residents and the police. This move is obviously designed to increase business during this difficult climate without any regard for the consequences”

These accusations are denied by the Wetherspoons group. A spokesman told the Cambridge Student (TCS) that what really matters is not the price of any particular drink but the quality of staff and management.

“The Regal is very well managed. We would not allow anyone to buy themselves 10 pints for £10, as some have said, as this would not be responsible.”

” We haven’t had any trouble as a result of the new deal, although we have noticed that lots more people are coming through the doors.”

Further he pointed out that the type of alcohol reduced to 99p was important.

“Green King IPA has a relatively low strength and is often enjoyed by an older generation.”

Wetherspoons has made price reductions on 5 of its drinks. A bottle of San Miguel is also now 99p whilst a bottle of Blossom Hill wine will sell for £4.99.

The company has also reduced the cost of five of its meals to £2.99, although many pubs across the country are now selling meals for £1. These so called ‘credit-crunch menus’ are spreading across the country as pubs try to undercut one another to offer the best deals during the economic slowdown.

Health campaigners have been less enthused by the fall in prices, claiming that the cheap drinks could lead to a rise in hospital admissions. Don Shenker of Alcohol Concern told the Times newspaper that although reduced costs in a recession should be welcomed for some basic commodities, the same should not be said of cheap drinks.

“Alcohol causes harm to the nation’s health and economy, and there appears to be a strong link between cheap alcohol and the high levels of binge drinking in the UK.”

Andrea Walko, CUSU welfare officer, told TCS that the students’ union is keen to promote responsible drinking:”Our message is that if you are going to drink, make sure you know the facts about alcohol. A pint of standard beer is two units. The government recommends that men drink 3-4 units or less a day and that women drink 2-3 units or less.”

CUSU has recently campaigned to raise awareness about responsible drinking amongst students, handing out ‘drinking wheels’ which state the relative strengths of different types of alcohol.

Pete Jefferys

Deputy News Editor