Attwood pledges crackdown on licensing over cheap drinks deals

Alex Attwood Alex Attwood is meeting night club owners on Thursday

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Up to 40 of NI's night club owners are meeting with the environment minister to discuss "irresponsible" drinks promotions.

Alex Attwood wants to make it tougher for pubs and clubs to get and retain entertainments licences.

It follows the death of 20-year-old Joby Murphy who drowned after a night out drinking.

"This is not going to be a soft landing, it's going to be hard talking," he said.

Joby Murphy had been drinking vodka at £1 a shot before he fell into the River Lagan in January. At the time, his father criticised cheap drink deals.

Mr Attwood told Good Morning Ulster on Wednesday that he was going to get tough on the issue.

"The Pubs of Ulster today are launching a code and I'm going to look and see how I can build that code into the body of the entertainments licensing regime so that if nightclub owners offend against that code they can get their entertainments licence withdrawn," he said.

Next week, Mr Attwood will also be talking to coach operators about the issue. It has recently been reported that some coach operators have been facilitating drinking parties.

Mr Attwood said: "Where I have powers and where I need to get powers in order to more fully licence the coach operators on one hand, and there are many good coach operators, but there are also some bad offenders.

"If I need to get new laws to better regulate what they do and if I need to build up the regime around entertainment licences, that's what I'll do, that's the conversation I'll have with the night club owners today.

"I expect it to be a tough conversation.... in order to get across a hard message and hard proposals to deal with the issue."

Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots has been looking at the possibility of introducing minimum pricing for alcohol. In December, he said alcohol misuse was one of the main threats to public health in Northern Ireland.

Last month, the social development minister Nelson McCausland said he would move to ban some cheap drink promotions.

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