Spare the fine and spoil the drinker by David Callam
23rd July 2008
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Spare the fine and spoil the drinker by David Callam

ALCOHOL abuse is costing all of us more than we anticipated.

Standing our round in terms of contributions to hospitals, policing and generally cleaning up after those who drink too much is set to become even more expensive.

So the government has issued another limp-wristed warning to the alcohol industry, threatening new labelling regulations.

What good will that do for a people so ill-educated that many are incapable of reading, even when sober?

Ministers blather on about a continental drinking culture, but ignore the fundamental industry differences.

Drinking establishments in cities and towns across the channel are civilised places where customers are encouraged to sit and chat as they watch the world go by, often enjoying a coffee or something to eat with their favourite tipple.

By contrast many of Britain's drinking establishments are dark, noisy places where there is no flat surface on which to stand a bottle or glass, let alone anywhere to sit.

The commercial strategy is simple: if you prevent customers from talking or putting their drinks down, they will consume more.

And yet we are surprised when a town like Croydon, with more than its fair share of vertical drinking establishments, becomes awash with drunks on week-end evenings.

In my view the answer is relatively simple: make club licences reflect the full cost of looking after the people the clubs attract.

No doubt, the owners would pass on the cost as increased entrance fees or additions to bar bills. Either course of action would make clubbing more expensive and therefore reduce the volume of alcohol clubbers could afford.

At the same time, police should rigidly enforce street drinking regulations that already exist: arrest those who are drinking or are drunk in public; hold them until they are sober; and fine them a sum that properly reflects the costs involved.

I'm not a killjoy, nor am I teetotal: a few hours spent in the company of friends over a glass or two of something alcoholic is always a delight.

But we do need to teach an antisocial minority that excessive drinking in public is not acceptable - making them pay the full cost of their revels would be a good start.

Croydon Eye is a weekly commentary written exclusively for The Best of Croydon by David Callam and posted in the blog section every Thursday.

David Callam is a freelance journalist and the former business editor of The Croydon Advertiser. For more examples of his work and to see what he could do for your business please visit

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