GOLF clubs are facing a new threat to their future after seeing alcohol sales plunge by as much as 70 per cent following the introduction of the new drink-drive law.
Since the strict new limit came into effect on December 5 clubs across the region have seen bar takings, which account for a significant portion of many clubs income, often meaning the difference between profit and loss, go through the floor. Some have taken hundreds of pounds less than they would have expected over the last three weeks as players head straight off after a game or order a pot of tea at a fraction of the cost of a round of alcoholic drinks.
Country pubs have also been affected, with some seeing teatime custom from workers stopping off for a pint on their way home drying up.
Golfers fear the loss of income will send more clubs over the edge, following the closure of Lothianburn Golf Club in 2013 and Torphin Hill earlier this year, both citing dwindling memberships.
Scotland new rules, which are tougher than the rest of the UK, limit men to less than a pint and women to one small glass of wine before they get behind the wheel.
Duncan Hay, bar manager at Haddington Golf Club, said he had seen a drop in alcohol sales of around 70 per cent as players ditch their post-round pint. He added: “I can go a day without serving any alcohol. People know police are out patrolling and are being extra careful.”
Several other clubs reported a big fall in bar takings in December, although some believed the cold weather had also had an impact, alongside the drink drive laws.
Allan Shaw, president of the Lothian Golf Association, said: “This [law] is certainly a threat to the existence of the clubs. They are struggling for membership and this is yet another challenge.”
Publicans fear the law will prove an even bigger blow to their industry than the smoking ban, hitting rural clubs and pubs particularly hard. Graham Smith, supervisor at the Goblin Ha’ Hotel in Gifford, said: “This time last year we were definitely busier. I would say there has been a 30 per cent drop.
“We are worried about it. You have got to be – this is our livelihood. This is a small village and a lot of our trade comes from outside.”
Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said the law change would lead to a “complete change to drinking habits” and would be “bigger than the smoking ban”.
“Rural pubs especially are at risk because people travel to them,” he said. “This definitely will be a difficult situation for many. It’s having a marked effect.
“It stops people having a glass of wine with a meal or a pint with a meal. People are not taking the chance. It’s a game-changer.
“This is a very strict ban by anyone’s standards. We have lost three pubs a week since the smoking ban and this, for many, is worse.”.”
Anyone caught drink-driving in Scotland now faces a driving ban of at least a year and up to six months in jail.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “It is putting lives at risk and it must stop. Our advice is simple, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all. Alcohol at any level will affect your ability to drive.”