Fears for golf clubs as drink-driving limit could be cut

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 10, 2016 13:50

Golf clubs in England and Wales could be fearing for their futures if proposals to cut the drink-driving limit to Scotland’s level are put in place – a move that was blamed for leading to one venue closing down.

Scotland reduced the legal limit of alcohol from 80mg per 100ml of blood, the same as the current level in England and Wales, to 50mg, at the end of 2014. UK transport minister Andrew Jones has said he will discuss the impact it has had on road safety with his Scottish counterpart, with a possible view to bringing in the change.

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“It is important to base our decisions on evidence and the Scottish experience will be crucial to that before we consider any possible changes to limits in England and Wales,” he said.

A few months after the limit was reduced in Scotland, Blairbeth Golf Club permanently shut down after 105 years in existence. Its captain, Davie McKay, said that while the club had been financially struggling for the previous decade, the new legislation played a major role in killing it off.

“Before the drink-driving law came into force, the older members and some of the other guys would stay for a few pints and sometimes they’d be here so long, they’d just decide to stay and get a taxi home.

“We noticed within the first month that takings were massively down and that’s not just alcohol, because if people are using the bar for drinks then they’re more likely to hang about and order some food as well.

“Towards the end, barely anyone was staying for even one pint because they obviously didn’t want to run the risk of being caught. After events and nice days during the summer, our clubhouse was sitting empty. That was sad to see.”

Several golf clubs in Scotland reported a significant reduction in profits following the change in law. The level of 50mg per 100ml of blood is equivalent to a small glass of wine or half a pint for the average woman or a large glass of wine or pint for the average man.

Stuart Graham, captain of Panmure Golf Club, said: “All members and visitors to the club have to travel by car. Previously members would feel comfortable having one drink after their round and then driving home but now that has changed. Our alcohol sales have dropped markedly.”

David Norman, director of Strathmore Golf Centre, added: “The new drink-drive limit has definitely had an effect on our — and no doubt every — out-of-town establishment that holds a licence to sell alcohol. In January 2015 our bar sales were down by 36 percent year-on-year and our restaurant sales declined by 16 percent.

“Our regular members prior to the new legislation would drink one or two pints of beer after their game whilst enjoying the company of their friends and have a bite to eat. They would have known that they were within the drink drive limit.

“Not now. These same people, unsure of whether or not one drink is or isn’t too many, will likely take a non-alcoholic refreshment and curtail their visit, affecting both our bar and restaurant sales.”

Duncan Hay, bar manager at Haddington Golf Club, stated: “I can go a day without serving any alcohol. People know police are out patrolling and are being extra careful.”

Allan Shaw, president of the Lothian Golf Association, said: “This [law] is certainly a threat to the existence of the clubs. They are struggling for membership and this is yet another challenge.”

Meanwhile, Dunbar Golf Club has applied for the right to serve alcohol from 10am in the morning after saying a new social culture of pre-golf drinking was being seen at its course.

Club spokesman James Hughes said: “The reduction in the drink-drive limit has seen a large drop in bar turnover post golf and a demand for social get together pre golf is emerging.”

Road safety experts have been putting pressure on ministers to toughen up the law, given that the England and Wales’s limits are among the highest in Europe.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 10, 2016 13:50
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