Breathalyser scheme launched to tackle pre-loading culture

By on 06/02/2015 in News

Pub and club-goers may be breathalysed on entry to Birmingham’s biggest nightspots in a move to tackle booze ‘pre-loading’ and alcohol-related violence.

More than 40 venues have signed up to the scheme – launched by West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council – that will see door staff armed with an Alco-Blow detector that picks out people who may already be drunk.

The device indicates anyone more than twice the legal drink drive limit and can be used by security teams to assess who could pose a disorder threat.

The Alco-Blow tubes – funded by the council’s Night Time Economy Steering Group – have been rolled out primarily in Broad Street but also to some venues in Digbeth, Hurst Street and other major city centre venues.

Central Birmingham Police Sergeant Dave Francis, said: “In recent years we’ve seen an explosion in pre-loading culture, people coming into the city already drunk and even getting out of taxis holding bottles of wine and vodka and downing them before going into clubs.

“Obviously when people are heavily drunk they are a danger to themselves and more likely to get caught up in rows or fights.

“The breathalysed on entry scheme is designed to reduce alcohol-related crime and disorder in our nightlife centres. A similar project was trialled in Norfolk last year and was found to reduce the number of disorders at venues by around a third.â€

The breathalysers differ from traditional road-side tests with clubbers blowing into the device from a few inches away rather than placing their lips on a tube. It saves money – as there’s no need to replace straws after every sample – and means staff can quickly check large groups of people.

They can also be held over the top of containers to determine if its contents are alcoholic – scuppering the trick of carrying booze in soft drinks bottles.

Sgt Francis said the scheme has the backing of pub and club owners in the city but that the breathalysers do not form part of any licensing conditions.

He added: “A total of 41 venues are using the blow sticks, they are all firmly behind the initiative. We’re not being prescriptive about saying how many people they should test, who they should test or even if they should refuse entry to anyone that blows over.

“People who ‘pre-load’ are no benefit for clubs as within half an hour of being allowed in they are likely to be drunk, don’t spend money at the bar and are more likely to get into trouble. It creates a vicious circle because if venues aren’t making money they may be tempted to put on drinks promotions that lead to more drunkenness.

“Together we want people to know that if they are coming into town drunk and want to head to the big party venues there is a good chance they will be tested and potentially turned away – ending their night before it’s really begun.â€

Venues will complete a simple log noting the time of the test, age of person, their gender, the reading and if the person was allowed entry.

The information will be used to get a clearer picture of the types of people drinking to excess, rather than relying on stereotypes, and can be used to form new policing strategies that could help further reduce alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and crime.

Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of Birmingham City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “I welcome the use of breathalysers at the entrances of pubs and clubs, if they deter people from trying to gain entry when they are drunk.

“Individuals who do this are putting themselves at risk and are more likely to end up in trouble by the end of the night. Therefore it can be much more difficult for licence holders to manage their premises safely, for the benefit of everyone else, if people are drunk when they walk in.

“Birmingham’s Purple Flag award recognises the safe and diverse nightlife that is on offer. This scheme will help to improve it further.â€


Media contact: For more information contact West Midlands Police press office on 0121 626 5858.

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