Design work brewing with shake-up of drinking law

The drinks industry is going through its biggest shake-up in more than 40 years. The Licensing Act, effective from November, will provide all bars, pubs, clubs and off-licences with the chance to open with late-night drinking licences. Applications for extended opening began last week.

The legislation will provide the police with tough new powers to deal with alcohol disorders, cracking down on the selling of alcohol to children and moving the responsibility for licensing decisions to the local authorities.

However, there is a widespread fear that the laws will generate a 24-hour drinking culture across the UK, fuelling the nation’s thirst for binge drinking.

According to the latest research undertaken by Mintel, wine consumption among women is currently booming in the UK, with sales up by 30 per cent, from £5.8bn in 1999 to an estimated £7.6bn in 2004.

The market is expected to be worth almost £10bn by 2009. French wines continue to be driven out by New World wines, with consumption of rosé shooting up by 32 per cent.

James McCoy, senior market analyst at Mintel, says the demand will fuel the level of high quality, lower value wines available on the market, arguing that branding will continue to shape the future of the wine market.

More importantly though, the act itself could create opportunities for the design sector as retail, leisure and brewery industries reassess branding, packaging, interiors and business strategies to accommodate the legislation.

Simon Manchipp, founder and director of design at No One, wonders if the act will ‘lead to a shift in drinking patterns and therefore products on offer?’

He explains, ‘This could throw up some great new product development opportunities for those breweries that are more concerned with the consumers’ palate than pure profit, and the design groups they choose to appoint to package and brand them.’ Unreal recently rebranded Midlands pub chain Everards Brewery, creating a new identity to run across its three ale products and 137 pubs (DW 20 January).

Creative director Brian Eagle believes breweries may be encouraged to promote responsible drinking on a larger scale, altering packaging to include ‘drink safe’ messages.

‘Areas such as lighting may be improved and clear outside signage may encourage a revamp,’ he adds.

Callum Lumsden, managing director at Lumsden Design Partnership, thinks 24-hour drinking establishments could be developed to ‘include more low-colour chill out spaces’.

In fact, according to a recent poll by the British Beer and Pub Association, an organisation that represents more than 30 000 pubs and bars in England and Wales, not one licensed premises intends to open for 24 hours.

Yet, simultaneously, the Government confirms that all premises, including bars, clubs, off-licences, theatres, cinemas, and late-night takeaway and pleasure boats, will apply for new licences.

It seems that any emerging design opportunities will depend on how the nation adjusts to the new laws in the first place.

Open 24 hours

• The Licensing Act received Royal Assent on 19 July 2003. It has four ancillary objectives

• licensed premises can apply for 24 hour licenses from last week

• venues will be able to operate under the scheme from November For further details visit www.culture.gov.uk

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