THEY are fresh-faced youngsters – and for most of them it will be their first time living away from home.

This week 46,000 students will descend on Southampton to begin a new and important chapter in their lives at the city’s two universities.

Today many bars and clubs are gearing up for the annual Freshers’ Week festivities by offering drinks for as cheap as 80p.

Now the city council’s licensing boss says she may take action to counter the rise of drink offers she describes as “immoral”. One health charity has called the drinks promotions available in popular nightspots “ethically and morally wrong”.

It comes in the same week that national debate surfaced over whether to introduce privately run “drunk tanks”, where people who have over-indulged on alcohol are taken to a room and left to sober up in a bid to free up crowded police cells.

Drinking establishments across the city are already advertising a range of bargain promotions.

Kelly’s, Varsity, Popworld and Avondale House, all in the Bedford Place area of the city, are among the nightspots serving up drinks for £1.50 and under.

Seymours is offering up 80p vodka mixers while the same price will buy you a shot at Tokyo, which boasts the “cheapest student night”.

At the Buddha Lounge entry is free every Tuesday and shots cost from £1, with the same for Thursday.

On Friday it is “double your money” at the bar, where a £5 voucher can be exchanged for £10 worth of drinks, a £10 voucher for £20 of drinks and a £15 voucher for £30 worth.

At The Varsity, in London Road, revellers can crank up the pace with “golden delicious Jagerbombs” – a shot of 35 per cent strength spirit dropped into a glass of energy drink – for just £2, and there are sambucas at £1.50. Both drinks are designed to be downed in one and are commonly bought in rounds.

Other bargain offers in and around the city centre include the Unit club, in St Mary’s Road, where there is a “Grand Theft Audio” night each Wednesday, with shots at £1 and “bombs” at £1.50.

At the Bar Quarter in Leisure World, vodka mixers, Archers and mixers and Malibu and Mixer or a Sambuca cost £1.50. In the Oceana club next door it is £2 for vodka mixers all night.

Bars that responded to Daily Echo calls yesterday defended their promotions and said a range of security measures made their establishments safe places to be for new students.

However, Southampton City Council licensing committee chairman Carol Cunio said she was concerned.

She added: “I’m very pleased that my children or grandchildren are not at university, as if I was a parent of some of these youngsters I would be very, very worried, because some of these offers are immoral.

“They may technically be adults, but many are too young to know how much alcohol they can take.” The eye-catching prices have been criticised by the Hampshire-based British Liver Trust amid fears for the long-term health impacts alcohol can have on young people.

Chief executive Andrew Langford, said some of the promotions were “ethically and morally wrong”.

“It is a really poor thing to do,” he added. “We know that excessive drink causes harm – it’s not as if young people are being encouraged to come in for a couple of pints and a chat with their friends. The aim is to get people drunk.

“Even at 18, organs are still immature and not fully functional.

“If they carry on drinking on a longterm basis they are going to damage their livers.” He said local authorities should be stricter in withdrawing licences to block cheap drink promotions.

Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes said: “We all know the potential consequences of consuming too much alcohol and the associated risks and dangers.

“It is therefore the responsibility of all those who go drinking in the clubs and bars for a night out to think about their health and personal safety, and to moderate their drinks.

“The licensees also have an obligation under the terms of their licence not to serve anyone who is drunk, and to ensure patrons do not consume excessive amounts of alcohol. Common sense must prevail.”

Daily Echo:

What the bars say:

SOUTHAMPTON bars and nightclubs have defended their promotions, insisting they all run safe venues.

While many are offering cheap beer and shots on Tuesdays – a prime student night – managers and landlords say they take their responsibilities seriously.

A spokesman from Buddha Lounge said the venue had designated “spotters” whose job it was to look out for people who had had too much to drink, as well as highly trained door staff, ID scanning technology to log drunken revellers and a close working relationship with licensing bosses.

He said £1 shots were for lower alcohol sours rather than stronger drinks, and that the double your money deal related to full-priced drinks.

He added: “The biggest problem is people ‘preloading’ by drinking at home. It is a major issue. We believe we run a really safe environment for people. We are not primarily a student venue and only have that student night on a Tuesday.”

The PR team for Varsity, in London Road, said the business operated a strict “challenge 21” policy, whereby anyone who looks under the age of 21 is asked to produce acceptable forms of
identification. With these safeguards in place we are confident to operate sensible drinks promotions in a controlled and safe environment for both our customers and staff,” a spokesman said.

Mike Andrews, from Kelly’s, in London Road, said he operated the challenge 21 policy and that his £1 drinks were not high in alcohol.

He added: “I don’t go in for the pub crawls or anything that promotes binge-drinking. Yes, we
do have promotions but they are on a par with other venues.”

Harry Seymour, of Seymour’s, said drunk people were not served during his promotional nights.

He said: “Our staff are highly trained to look out for people who are drunk and monitor how  much they are drinking.”

What the universities say:

THE city’s two universities have pledged to encourage “responsible” attitudes among their students as the annual freshers bonanza gets under way.

A University of Southampton spokesman said initiatives were in place to warn young people about the danger of high alcohol intake, while a “drinkwise” advice guide is also handed out.

Southampton Solent University said campaigns are ongoing to draw students’ attention to living safely in the city. A spokesman added: “The university does not endorse any drinks promotions from external parties and venues.”

  • Additional reporting by Julian Robinson and James Franklin