Does dry January put the local at risk?

New year, new you. Let’s face it, if you celebrate it, we all go in as much as possible over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The amount of food bought and consumed (and wasted – another topic) is absolutely incredible. The amount of booze, much the same. Although theres chance less of the alcohol being wasted, than you. Especially with those bizarre days between Christmas and New Year, where it starts to become a countdown clock ahead of the January 1st to get rid of it all.

Whilst all intentions are good of those estimated 4 Million Britons who participate in dry January, it’s likely that not everyone sees the month through in full without breaking. I personally did a ‘dry-er’ January. I didn’t drink on weekdays, and in fact only had 4 days where I did have alcohol. And do you know what? I didn’t actually miss it.

This change (albeit temporary for most) is a worrying possibility for bars and pubs. In doing some quick research for New Year offers, you would not be surprised to learn that none of the 10 UK pub and bar chains I looked at had a front and centre campaign to support Dry January. However, if you were looking for places to go without breaking your resolution, BrewDog and Be at One have alcohol free options disguised as regular beers and cocktails and the detail tucked away on their websites.

Based on statistics regarding unit purchases in the UK as a whole, and the rough average price of a bottle of wine from supermarkets, in January those 4 million participants could save a total of £230m in one month. Individually, that works out at around £58. Each. Now the data I have used doesn’t necessarily break it down into purchase locations, but if we considered the same statistics but assumed all units were typically drank in pubs or bars and used those prices, that represents around £580m across the country potentially lost. In a month.

Of course, the maths is totally flawed, and is further thrown into doubt by how excessive Christmas time is by comparison. However, it does raise questions about the future of clubs, bars and pubs. Whilst Britain still seems to lead the way with binge-drinking culture, fewer and fewer young people are actually drinking alcohol at all. A rise in young people abstaining from alcohol means that the future of the ‘local’ is very much at risk. With 11% more young people skipping out on booze due to drunkenness being deemed uncool, it is no surprise that one pub closes down every 12 hours.

With alcohol making up a shrinking percentage of our economy (2.5% GDP) as a result of these habits, change needs to be made so the pub doesn’t just fade away. By leaving the EU, the Government has the ability to reduce tax on alcohol which could encourage sales by reducing the prices of a pint in the local pub. However given the ever-increasing pressure on the resources for public services, any action that reduces tax income has to be carefully considered. Instead, bars and pubs will have to adapt. Most major beer brands now carry their own low-alcohol or alcohol free lines, and even ‘clean’ spirits are being developed that give the taste, but not sensation, of getting drunk. There is a catch 22 in both aspects though. A reduction in alcohol sales will mean the Government takes a lower amount of tax through the current beer levy, but likewise, pubs may make a lower revenue through low-to-no-alcohol product sales.

Whilst a reduction in drinking habits might mean more empty bars, the campaigns with charity partners and money raised is undeniably worth it. By 2016 at least £17m had been raised for Cancer Research, just from giving up drinking alone. Assuming that has remained consistent, since it’s inception it’s quite possible that abstaining from alcohol for just one month has raised over £40m for charity in the UK. The resources are needed to help people who have difficulties with or as a result of alcohol, and if more and more people permanently abstain from drinking, there is likely to be fewer funds raised through the Dry January initiative.

The main thing I personally took away from dry January is that whilst it still fails to be marketable in most bars, there is a growing market for alcohol abstinence. Sure, I did have a few beers and cocktails through January, but I also drank G&T-without-the-gin and rosé without the wine and enjoyed it. Alcohol-free is slowly on the rise – and is bringing with it less headaches the next day for consumers, but far more to consider for the landlord.

For support and advice regarding drinking or Alcohol, please get in touch with your local GP or Alcohol Change at the link provided.

All opinions are my own. No paid or sponsored content. Quoted and relevant links credited. All figures are based on my own calculations for the UK. Information correct at the time of publication. For entertainment only – this is not intended for advice.

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