THE price of booze in Bedford Place could rise under a proposal aimed at quelling alcohol-fuelled violence and disorder.

Hampshire police and Southampton City Council have told pubs, bars and clubs in the popular nightspot to stop selling discounted drinks.

Legally they cannot force venues to raise their booze prices, but they have called on the trade to consider a voluntary agreement.

In a letter sent to every venue in the area last month, Chief Inspector Alison Scott and deputy leader of Southampton City Council Royston Smith, said the current level of violence was unacceptable.

“In order to prevent future problems with alcohol-related violent crime we would like you to consider a voluntary agreement between all venues around the London Road/Bedford Place area, where a minimum price for promotions is set,” the jointly-signed letter said.

Under a proposal drawn up by The Orange Rooms, one of the area’s most popular independent bars, prices will not drop below £1.50 for a spirit and mixer that contains at least 40 per cent alcohol.

The minimum pricing commitment – one of the first of its kind in the country – will be presented to licensees at a meeting next week.

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Neil Homer, general manager of The Orange Rooms, said it would mean his bar would raise the price of its vodka and rum mixers by 50 per cent.

The £1 spirit mixers, currently only available on Tuesday nights, were introduced to compete against an influx of new bars and to counter the economic downturn, Mr Homer said.

“Bedford Place is getting saturated by licensees and over the past two years the recession has put huge pressures on businesses,”

he said.

“I maintain that we are a quality venue, but even we have had to adapt. It would be impossible for the area to change back, but we can all improve what we do to police the area and to help reduce crime.”

Mr Homer said the pricing pledge would only be a success if every bar, pub and club in the area signed up, including the big national chains such as Revolutions.

He also fears that by raising the cost of drinks in Bedford Place, drinkers could simply flock to other popular areas such as Bevois Valley or Above Bar.

“I am scared it could kill what is a profitable and vibrant night – Tuesday night is now busier than a Friday,” he said.

“But we understand Hampshire Constabulary doesn’t have the budget to police it and that is why they have come to us to deal with the problem.”

Cllr Royston Smith said if the scheme proves successful, it could be introduced in other parts of the city.

“We want to get a voluntary pricing pledge. If we can get it in one area then it will be easier to roll it out in others – before you know it, it could be rolled out in other cities such as Portsmouth,” he said.

Inspector Phil Bates, from Southampton police, added: “There is a danger that some trade will go, but at the end of the day the capacity at Bevois Valley cannot accommodate the capacity in the Bedford Place/London Road area.”

The plan was last night commended by the Ringwood-based British Liver Trust, which said there was an undeniable link between cheap booze and the amount people drink.

“Measures to tackle consumption are wide-ranging, however the Trust firmly believes that setting a minimum price per unit would help,” spokesman Sarah Matthews said.

“A minimum price would have a very small impact on the average drinker, in fact a 40p per unit minimum price would save the NHS £116m each year and reduce crimes by 16,000 each year.”

It follows a similar scheme introduced in Bournemouth last year, where licensees agreed not to drop the price of a spirit and mixer below £1.50.

More than 60 pubs and bars introduced the voluntary code through Bournemouth Town Watch, a trade partnership organisation.

However, the body’s night-time economy co-ordinator Jon Shipp last night said the minimum price was only ever an “unwritten guide”.

He said it had been abandoned in recent months and the organisation was instead cracking down on drink promotions.

“If you are encouraging people to drink faster then that is the bigger problem,”Mr Shipp said.