The pub industry is going back to school as it steps up efforts to counter claims that it is contributing to the UK's binge-drinking culture.
Following a successful pilot scheme in a west London school, backed by brewer and pub operator Fuller's, the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) is planning to take its Level 1 Certificate in Alcohol Awareness across the country in a bid to educate children aged 13 and over about the effects of binge-drinking.
Speaking to Caterer at the scheme's launch last week, John McNamara, chief executive of the BII, said: "We have a responsibility as an industry. We sell a legal product and we are not ashamed of it. Ninety-nine per cent of our members operate socially responsibly and safely, and with a very young age group we can start to have a positive impact."
The course, which is the result of 18 months' planning, shows the willingness of the pub industry to address the issue, according to McNamara. "With more and more of our members getting involved in school services and materials for teachers, why are we not talking about the positive side of the hospitality business?" he said.
The BII is seeking sponsorship from pub operators as it takes the scheme nationwide, with the intention to promote pubs as part of the solution in solving the problem of binge-drinking and not part of the problem.
Georgina Wald, public relations manager at Fuller's, said pubs and drinks companies are unfairly portrayed as "the spawn of the devil" in the binge-drinking debate.
"It is very difficult as a brewer to deal with somebody under the age of 18 without people crying foul play, and we are losing the middle ground in the debate on alcohol," she said. "Every major community has a pub and a school, and it would be nice to see the managers come into the schools and interact with pupils."
By Christopher Walton
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