No 'same again'. . it's water for you!

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BAR staff in Edinburgh have been banned from asking customers if they would like the "same again" – and told to offer a glass of water instead.

The move, which was today branded "ludicrous", has been introduced as part of the Licensing (Scotland) Act which comes into force next week, aimed at tackling binge drinking.

While the city council insists it has still not decided how to interpret many aspects of the new legislation, mandatory training courses for bar staff in the city are already under way.

Staff who have been on the courses say that as well as being told not to offer customers the "same again" so as not to encourage drinking, they have been advised to always offer a glass of water.

A prize of "cash behind the bar" can no longer be given as a reward for winning a pub quiz, while special offers such as "buy two glasses of wine and get the rest of the bottle free" have also been outlawed.

And offering free drinks to customers who have perhaps waited too long for a meal or suffered some other inconvenience has also been prohibited.

One source, who had been on the training course, which all bar staff will be required to undertake, said: "Some of the things we have to do are completely ridiculous, like not asking folk if they'd like the same again, and instead offering them water.

"There are a lot of changes to make, so no more up-selling of stuff, like offering to make spirits a double for a pound extra."

Some publicans say they have even been told to keep a note of how much each individual customer had consumed.

Pedro Tomas, the manager of Mr Modos on Lothian Road, said: "I don't know how you are supposed to run a pub quiz without there being a prize.

"When bar staff ask customers if they would like another drink, it is just an act of courtesy."

All bar staff will need to prove they have completed a Scottish Government approved training course.

Although ignoring even minor parts of the legislation would constitute a breach, industry insiders said it was probably too early to say how stiff punishments would be.

Labour councillor Ian Murray, who also runs Aspin Bar on South Bridge, said: "On the whole I welcome this legislation, because we and many others run a very tight ship, and it's those who don't who've got us to this position.

"But training courses telling staff not to offer say, someone who's had half a lager and lime, another one is ludicrous."

Another pub manager, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Evening News: "It is hard enough right now to try to run a bar, the smoking ban hit everyone really hard. And now this.

"We have had all of our freedom taken away to try to run a bar, and provide a social and fun place."

It was revealed last week the city council was going to take a tougher stance on its interpretation of the legislation than any other local authority in Scotland, although officials have stated they are yet to meet formally to rubber stamp their policy.

The city's licensing leader Cllr Marjorie Thomas said: "The board has not made any decisions regarding the interpretation of these conditions, relating to either type of premises in the city.

"We will be taking advice from both our license standard officers and the police."

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was up to local licensing boards to interpret the rules.

ALL CHANGE

Some of the new rules affecting city pubs:

&#149 No asking the customers if they'd like the "same again". Instead, if returning to the bar, offer a glass of water.

&#149 No more "cash behind the bar" prizes for pub quiz winners.

&#149 Prices of alcohol cannot change for any less than a 72-hour period – meaning no more "happy hours".

&#149 No more two-for-ones, or similar deals.

&#149 The end of "up-selling" – i.e buy two glasses of wine and get the rest of the bottle free.

&#149 Stricter conditions surrounding entertainment such as karaoke and live music.

Your Say: Do the new licensing guidelines go too far?

Ian Barclay, 37, shop manager, Polwarth: "If someone is old enough to be in a pub then they are old enough to know what they want and how much."

Jane Hughes, 31, music tutor, Polbeth: "So many pubs ignore recommendations about selling cheap drink. If a pub plays by the rules, it should have no concern about these."

Scott Clark, 41, IT manager, Parkhead: "This is an insult to bar workers and their managers. It isn't in their interests to sell drink cheaply, or to have heavily intoxicated people in their pubs."