IT HAS become increasingly popular as both a charity drive – and a personal challenge. But now Scottish pubs have warned that the trend for drinkers to abstain from alcohol during “Dry January” is hitting the trade hard at a time when it is already under pressure and pubs are closing at a rate of seven a week.
The smoking ban, the recession and a reduction in the drink drive alcohol limit, brought in just over a year ago, have all hit sales of alcohol, while earlier this month, the UK’s chief medical officer cut the recommended alcohol limit to 14 units a week for both men and women.
Now licensed trade organisations and pubs and bars have warned that the Dry January campaign is the latest blow to an already struggling industry.
The initiative, created by charity Alcohol Concern, attracts around two million people across the UK to give up alcohol for an entire month.
Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), branded the move to encourage people to cut out alcohol as “Prohibition”. The SLTA is to release a new report tomorrow which is expected to reveal that seven Scottish pubs are closing every week.
He said: “The consensus among pub managers and landlords seems to be that this kind of thing, along with the reduction in recommended units – this Prohibition-style movement – is all going a bit too far. I don’t like the expression ‘nanny state’, but that is what is coming to mind.”
Neil Williams, spokesman for the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, warned that licensed premises had been hard hit by the initiative. “January is a quiet month anyway and with Dry January as well, our advice to businesses has had to be to work harder to try to bring people in,” he said.
Jackie Burns, who works in Robbie’s Bar on Leith Walk, Edinburgh, said some people who visit the pub on a regular basis had stayed at home during January. “We have some regulars who tell us: ‘I’m doing Dry January, I won’t see you for a month – and we don’t.”
Kirk Lonsdale, manager at The Bon Vivant on Edinburgh’s Thistle Street, added that requests for specialist soft drinks had increased during the past month.
“Although we haven’t noticed it being particularly quiet, apart from during the day, we have had a lot of people coming in asking for non-alcoholic drinks,” he said.
“The other night, there were two tables of people who were experimenting with ‘mocktails’ – non-alcoholic cocktails – as they were doing Dry January.”
Some people giving up alcohol for a month to raise money for charity, whereas others see it as a health kick after the indulgent festive period.
A spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern said: “During the month’s holiday from booze, we urge people to reflect on whether they have been drinking too much but to carry on with a normal social life.
“In fact, we positively encourage people to go to the pub, enjoy themselves but choose non-alcoholic beverages. However, they tell us there isn’t enough on offer for them.”