Councils can attach conditions to premises licences to combat the specific problems which occur or can be foreseen at the outlet or in the area where the premises in question is located.  It has recently come to our attention that some Councils are making it a licence condition that the “premises and proprietor are signed up to the Portman Code of Conduct”.  The Portman Code applies to producers of alcoholic drinks; many of these also have a portfolio of pubs, restaurants and hotels which obviously need a premises licence.

Packaging, promotions and responsible drinking
The Government has for many years now been focused on reducing the harm caused by excess consumption of alcohol both to public health and public order.  The drinks industry has been keen to show that it is encouraging responsible drinking and that it is not necessary for further legislation to be introduced in this area.  The responsible packaging and promotion of alcoholic drinks is all part of this.

The Portman Group Code of Conduct
The Portman Group regulates the promotion and packaging of alcoholic drinks sold or marketed in the UK.  The Group’s Code of Conduct, which was first introduced in 1996, is the cornerstone of self-regulation and is recognised as such by the Government who have made it clear that it will legislate if the industry does not self-regulate successfully.  Signing up to the Code and compliance with it are voluntary.  It is interesting to see Councils making compliance with the Code a condition of a premises licence where the proprietor is a brewery/producer.  This will give an additional incentive for producers to sign up to the Code.

Recent changes to the Code
The Portman Code aims to support creative marketing whilst at the same time protecting the public, particularly children.

You will no doubt be aware of the contents of the Portman Code

The Code has recently been strengthened in the following key areas:

Alcoholic Strength
Under the revised Code if a product has lower alcoholic strength than the average similar beverage this may be emphasised proportionately.  This supports the promotion of new lower alcohol ranges and the producer’s pledge to remove 1 billion units of alcohol from the market.

Inappropriate marketing

  • The revised code widens the prohibition on reference to sexual success in alcohol promotion and packaging and now prohibits direct or indirect associations with sexual activity.  This wider prohibition disallows any reference to sexual activity.
  • The revised code prohibits claims that alcohol has therapeutic or relaxing qualities.  A direct link between consuming alcohol and relaxation in promotions will be unacceptable.

Images of under 25s
Producers should not use images of under 25s (or those who look under 25) in promotions unless these are used in an incidental rather than a significant role.  Promotions should not show under 25s drinking.

The revised Code will apply to all naming, packaging, marketing and promotion of alcohol by drinks producers for sale or consumption in the UK which is not otherwise subject to regulation by the Advertising Standards Authority or Ofcom.  The Code also now applies to PR activity.

Further Information
The Portman Group’s Advisory Service has produced a series of Guidance notes to help companies comply with the new code.  These include guidance on using images of under 25s and Communication of Alcoholic Strength.



The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.