Fury at nightclub's free drinks promo

A SUFFOLK night club which has started offering women free drinks all night has been branded as “irresponsible” by community leaders and drink awareness groups.

Russell Claydon

A SUFFOLK night club which has started offering women free drinks all night has been branded as “irresponsible” by community leaders and drink awareness groups.

Vita night club in Sudbury has provoked outrage for its latest drinks promotion, which involves offering women, but not men, free drinks on Thursday nights.

The new offer comes at a time when a Suffolk alcohol charity is seeing the number of females it treats rocket and teenagers in Sudbury have been voicing fears about drink-related trouble in the town.

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Under the promotion everyone pays �4 to enter the club, but women are sent to a segregated upstairs bar where they can collect as many free alcoholic drinks as they can handle.

Last night licensing officers and Suffolk police said they would be keeping a close eye on the situation, which did not breach licensing laws, to make sure it did not get out of hand.

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Community leaders and a Suffolk drink treatment group said they were shocked by the details of the offer and voiced strong opposition to it. But the owner of the East Street venue defended his decision, saying they had a proven record of delivering good offers without it spilling into trouble.

Lord Andrew Phillips, president of the Sudbury Society, said: “It is mad, bad and sad. Mad because it flies in the face of experience of binge drinking, bad because it will heighten local concern about young people and sad because the owners are only considering short-term profits.”

He added: “It is a honey pot setup to get the girls in and the men will follow.”

Nigel Bennett, Babergh district councillor for Sudbury South, which includes the town centre, who also teaches sixth form pupils at Great Cornard, said: “It is not responsible on a number of grounds. It seems dangerous and there is something rather strange just offering free drinks to young girls.

“You could intimate it is because they drink less than men, or other reasons you do not want to think about.”

Chip Somers, chief executive of Bury St Edmunds-based addiction rehabilitation charity Focus12, said: “We would think it would be completely irresponsible. It is basically saying 'come and get completely pissed'.

“They will say it is up to the individual but in those situations and with that kind of incentive to drink a lot, women are going to be in a very vulnerable and incapable state and that is not very good at all.”

Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern's chief executive, also condemned the promotion, saying it would impair female's judgments and would increase the chances of crimes such as sex attacks.

But Derek Smith, who has owned Vita for the past seven years, said it would be responsibly policed in the club and the idea was to switch it over to men in an alternating three month cycle.

“It is tough times at the moment and we are one of the few premises in Sudbury which is a freehold so we can get alcohol from wherever we want and we can get it quite cheap,” he said. “I do not see why we cannot pass on that to our customers.”

He added: “Obviously door and bar staff have had extra training to identify intoxicated people.”

He insisted the new Thursday offer was profitable for him and said: “Sudbury at the end of the day is not an affluent town - they like a good deal and we have tried going down the conventional route and it does not work.”

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