Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Sunday, 12 October 2008 10:48 UK

Bars facing ban on free alcohol

Women drinking wine
Free alcohol for women in bars could become a thing of the past

The drinks industry has condemned draft government proposals which could ban bars from giving free alcohol to women.

Under proposals being considered by ministers, restrictions could also be introduced on pub "happy hours", and health warnings placed on drinks.

The government is keen to promote sensible drinking and cut levels of public drunkenness.

But the British Beer and Pub Association said the plans would "bury" businesses under red tape.

"At a time when the economy and business is under severe pressure it's government's role to support business, not send in a wrecking crew with the ball and chain of further regulation," said spokesman Mark Hastings.

"Government needs to wake up to the fact that five pubs a day are closing in Britain."

Bad practice

Mr Hastings said the proposed code would apply to more than 186,000 licensed premises in the UK.

The draft rules would also require restaurants to serve wine in glasses with marked measures.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, said the drinks industry should a face tougher regulatory regime.

Pubs are great places and the more inventive managers will find other ways, like food and entertainment, to tempt people through the door
Yorrick, UK

He told the BBC that a current voluntary code governing the industry should be made mandatory.

There was no evidence, he said, that the voluntary code had "stopped bad practice" or discouraged young and heavy drinkers from consuming too much cheap alcohol.

A Department of Health spokesman said "no final decision" had been taken yet on the proposals.

But he said: "Government's initial belief is that the code should be revised with a view to making it mandatory in retail premises that sell alcohol."

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