Welcome to the first in our blog series charting the events of COVID-19 and their impact on the wider alcohol sector. Featuring alcohol charities, partnerships and industry bodies, together we seek to examine what happened during the crisis, the lessons learned and changes that could be implemented going forward to help the recovery. We are delighted to be able to shine a spotlight on the actions of a sector acting fast and responsibly during the pandemic.

The imposing of lockdown was a challenging and unprecedented measure which impacted on the daily lives of everyone in our society. As pubs, clubs and bars closed, sales of alcohol fell dramatically, but the sector responded in a robust and considered manner and demonstrated its commitment to supporting people, looking after teams, protecting pubs and contributing to the community. The blog series examines three key themes:

  • Actions during the lockdown;
  • Impacts on drinking behaviour;
  • Wider perspectives on the challenge and its impact.

Actions during the crisis

Looking at the response from the industry to the crisis, the British Beer and Pub Association will explain how pubs played a greater role in their communities than ever before, including the specific help offered to the NHS and staff on the front line. The Scotch Whisky Association their rapid response which, alongside their members and wider industry, saw, at its peak, more than 1.5 million litres of high-strength ethanol produced every week – enough to produce a bottle of hand sanitiser for every household in the UK. We also take the opportunity to share the diverse and impactful measures taken by Portman Group members who spent tens of millions of pounds on a range of schemes and initiatives to support bar workers, local community groups and research teams.

Impacts on drinking behaviour

While much has been written about the impact of lockdown on drinking behaviours in the short-term, the longer term consequences are yet to become clear. Over two blogs we will look at the research carried out during the lockdown and compare this with the information emerging as the pubs reopen. Across all of the research, it is clear that there remains a moderate majority drinking who enjoy a drink but regularly do so within the low risk 14 unit guidance. However, it is evident that a small number of drinkers increased their alcohol consumption during lockdown and we will hear from Drinkaware on how to best support those whose drinking has increased to higher levels to return to a more moderate approach.

Wider perspectives

Additionally, we look to our affiliate organisations, the Scottish Alcohol Industry Partnership and the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, for their perspectives on the impact of lockdown in Scotland and the coronavirus response in the wider world. Examining some of the unique cases and situations that have arisen, we will see how the sector has responded to the challenges to support the safe reopening of pubs in Scotland through as well as considering some of the policy pledges and actions that have taken place around the globe. We also examine the impact on sales of alcohol, drawing the latest information from the Treasury and industry data analysts to identify how large the fall in sales was over lockdown and we will look to anticipate the impact of social distancing as it limits the number of customers across the hospitality space.

Finally, towards the conclusion of our series, we will gain the perspective of ClubSoda, the leaders of the Mindful Drinking Movement, who will discuss their members experience during lockdown and the take up of no alcohol alternatives.

We expect that despite this sweep of the bodies involved in the alcohol sector, inevitably we will miss out on highlighting some of the other excellent initiatives that have occurred. If that is the case please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let us know what we’ve missed.

Over the course of the next six weeks we will show that while the range of bodies and organisations in the alcohol sector are broad and wide ranging, they have come together to work extensively and collaboratively to respond to the pandemic. This blog series intends to capture much of the action taken by responsible organisations and offer a sense of the industry’s spirit during this difficult time.

Of course, none of us know what the future will hold. Doubtless the industry will seek to build on the good work done to date as we seek to shape a future in which we can all enjoy alcohol responsibly.