Make Festive Drinking Safe Drinking, Urges Drinkaware

How Pubs and Bars Can Help their Customers to Avoid Alcohol Harms

Ahead of the festive season and the drinking occasions that come with it, Drinkaware is encouraging pub, bar and club operators to take steps to create an environment where customers can enjoy themselves without suffering alcohol harms.

Drinkaware Chief Executive Elaine Hindal said: “A visit to the pub with friends, family or workmates is part of the fun of Christmas for many people, and most will enjoy a glass of wine or a pint of seasonal ale responsibly.

“However, the sheer number of people coming into pubs, clubs and bars over the festive season inevitably means a heightened risk of alcohol harms, especially as it often involves drinking over a long period of time – the office Christmas lunch followed by drinks, for example – or group drinking, where people feel under pressure to join rounds.

“Responsible operators will be aware of these risks and plan now to mitigate them. They’ll also be looking at how customers who choose not to drink alcohol – whether because they’re driving or for other reasons – are made to feel just as welcome as those who are drinking.”

Peer pressure

Festive socialising in groups can lead to people feeling peer pressure to drink more than they intended. Latest research from Drinkaware 1 revealed the scale of the issue, with more than a third (35%) of drinkers saying that pressure to drink is common in their age group, rising to 60% in the 18-24 age group.

The survey found that peer pressure is exerted mainly by friends and co-workers, with 43% of drinkers saying they felt pressure to drink when out with colleagues. Men report pressure to drink from bosses or superiors (13%) more than women (8%).

Helping customers to moderate their drinking

Drinkers who want to moderate their drinking employ a number of techniques to achieve it. According to research by Drinkaware2, 72% of drinkers choose certain drink free days in the week to stick to, around half (52%) set themselves a limit and the same number alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks.

The same study showed that 34% of drinkers have cut down their drinking by choosing a lower strength alcohol drink, and 29% a non-alcoholic beer, wine or spirit substitute. As the range of low and no alcohol drinks continues to expand, choosing them is set to become more popular as a way of moderating alcohol consumption.

Drinkaware’s tips for an alcohol harm-free festive season

Offer an interesting selection of no and low alcohol drinks. This will be welcomed by customers who are choosing not to drink alcohol, including drivers, and it can also help customers who are drinking, if they alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. There’s never been more choice, so incorporate no/low alcohol beers and wines, non-alcoholic spirit alternatives and mocktails into your drinks list and make sure customers know they’re available. It’s also great to offer self-serve tap water on the bar, for customers who want a glass of water in between, or instead of, alcoholic drinks.

Review your wine list. Drinking large glasses of wine can quickly add up to a harmful amount of alcohol. Offering smaller serves, and lower ABV wines, can help customers to stay within the Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units of alcohol a week. For example, a 250ml glass of a 14% ABV wine contains 3.4 units, while a 125ml glass at 11% ABV contains 1.4 units. Make sure customers know the 125ml serve is available.

Make food available, where possible. Food helps to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Ideally, make sure customers can order food for the same hours as you serve drink.

Make customers aware that you will not serve alcohol to any customer who is drunk, or who you think may be buying alcohol for a drunk friend; the latter being something to look out for if you have a large group in your pub. Drinkaware and the British Beer & Pub Association have produced two posters – ‘Can’t Get Served’ and ‘Mate’s in a State’ – that are useful in communicating this to customers, and can be downloaded free from the Drinkaware website

Train your staff. Without the right training, your staff team may not be able to identify and support customers who may be at risk of alcohol harms, particularly when your venue is busy over the festive season. Drinkaware’s Alcohol Vulnerability Awareness e-learning course equips team members with the skills and knowledge they need, with practical advice on dealing with a range of scenarios including sexual drunken harassment. For more information, please contact

Look after designated drivers. Pubs and bars should be welcoming drivers in festive groups and making sure they enjoy their visit as much as their friends or colleagues. This could include offering free soft or no alcohol drinks for designated drivers.

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