A PUB boss has called on the Government to bring in minimum pricing per unit of booze.
Jess McConnell, who run The Isis, in Silksworth Row, Sunderland, said ministers must take action by calling time on cheap supermarket alcohol which is having a serious effect on pub takings.
His demand comes as research from North East alcohol office Balance revealed 16 pubs a week are closing in the UK, with landlords saying their profits have fallen heavily over the past year.
Mr McConnell and other publicans in the North East have written to Business and Enterprise Minister Michael Fallon, asking him to back a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit.
That rate has already been agreed in Scotland and is due to take effect next April but is subject to a legal challenge by opponents.
About 70 per cent of North East publicans surveyed by Balance say they support the measure.
Those backing the campaign say it will protect businesses without punishing moderate drinkers who enjoy a few pints each week.
It is estimated that alcohol abuse costs the Wearside economy more than £50million each year.
Mr McConnell said: “Not only are these prices diverting our trade and damaging our livelihood, they mean that people are rolling into town drunk, posing a greater risk to themselves and others, including our staff who are legally prevented from serving anyone who has drunk too much.
“The Government has an ideal opportunity to protect small business by closing the huge price gap that exists between supermarkets and community pubs.”
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “The introduction of a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit of alcohol would help level the playing field by closing the price gap that exists between pubs and supermarkets.
“This would make ‘pre-loading’ or getting drunk at home before a night out less financially appealing and help breathe life back into the British community pub – a hugely important part of this country’s small business backbone.”
Mr McConnell, who owns The Jarrow Brewery and also runs The Maltings, in South Shields, added: “Anyone who loves their local, or the Great British pub for that matter, needs to sign up to this campaign.
“There are many factors which are threatening our trade – but supermarkets really do have a strangle-hold on pubs.
“This measure will give us some breathing space.”
People can back the campaign at www.balancenortheast.co.uk/mup.
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