What is a unit of alcohol and why it should concern licensed premises

Posted: Tuesday, 2 June 2009 @ 13:25

The recently issued Home Office consultation “Safe Sensible Social” suggests that new regulations will come into force in the near future requiring licensed premises to display UK unit contents of alcoholic products. This will be in addition to the voluntary code between the government and the industry, surely a clear case of over regulation and a recipe for confusion?


The information will have to be “within sight” of the point of sale. I therefore expect that there will have to be an expensive requirement for reprinting of menus or wine lists to include unit information, in addition to display in the bar areas. The fine detail has not yet been decided, and will no doubt be influenced by the consultation, so if you want to have your say respond to the Home Office consultation by 5 August 2009  at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-2009-alcohol.

I expect that the regulations will set out minimum font sizes, colour of paper, and positioning, if previous regulations are anything to go by. Whilst the idea of education on alcohol consumption is a good one, the expense through the extra regulations will be unwelcome in the current credit crisis. And do not forget that a failure to comply with the regulations will be a criminal offence and could also result in a review of a Premises Licence.


But what is a unit and how is it calculated? And what is the recommended safe limit?
A unit is 8 grams or 10 ml of alcohol. An easy formula to use is to multiply the strength in abv (alcohol by volume) by the volume to be consumed and divide by 1000. For example a 25 ml measure of whisky, vodka or rum with an abv of 40% will be one unit, 25 x 40 = 1000 divided by 1000 = 1. A pint of beer is roughly 570 ml so an ordinary strength 3.5-4% abv will be 2 units, but a pint of premium 5% abv will be 2.9 units. A large glass (250 ml) of wine at 12% will be 3 units. For more information on alcohol units and safe drinking levels visitthe NHS website at www.nhs.uk/livewell/alcohol/Pages/Alcoholhome.aspx or contact Drinkline, the national 24-hour helpline on 0800 917 82 82 or visit Drinkaware at www.drinkaware.co.uk

Nigel Musgrove

Licensing Law Specialist

Blog by Nigel Musgrove
Nigel has been providing dispute resolution advice as a solicitor for over 35 years. As well as advising SMEs and business owners on disputes he also offers a specialist licensing law service. View profile
Call Nigel on +44 (0)1285 847 001 or by email
This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.

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