By RYAN TAYLOR
A drinking game staged annually at the Mid Brae Inn which invites participants to vomit in the pub’s car park has been condemned as irresponsible.
The Baileys Challenge encourages customers to down as much of the Irish cream liqueur as they can in as short a time as possible.
The participants are then taken outside the pub and made to spew in as neat a circle as they can manage.
The winner – the one who can complete the neatest ring with his vomit – is held as a champion and presented with a belt.
It came to light after unconfirmed reports one of the participants had to be taken to the health centre in Brae for treatment after being taken ill, although the practice said that would not have taken place as it would have happened after hours.
The challenge takes place annually to tie in with the Delting Up-Helly-A’, although organisers of the fire festival insist it is not directly connected with the event in any way.
Diane Davies, of the Mid Brae Inn, said the challenge had been taking place at the pub since 1995, and had so far passed without incident.
“It was just something that the lads had started in here and it has continued ever since.
“To the best of my knowledge there has never been a problem.
“There has never been anything . . . going wonky. We’ve never had to call out a doctor, and we’ve never had any complaints.
“It’s a challenge to see who can down a bottle the fastest, and it does take part in the pub.”
Mrs Davies added anyone was free to take part in the event, which had proved popular with patrons.
“The challenge is for people to make the neatest ring. Most people do make themselves sick.”
Asked if anyone had been taken ill at the event, she said: “To the best of my knowledge that never happened.”
At 17 per cent volume Baileys is not as strong a drink as a bottle of vodka or whisky, although it is considerably stronger than beer.
“Beer is usually about 4.8 per cent,” Mrs Davies said. “Baileys is 17 per cent, but something like a bottle of vodka is much higher at around 40 per cent.
“It’s probably going to have to be reviewed before long, because there are new licensing laws coming into force in September. I don’t know exactly what would happen after that.”
Attempts by The Shetland Times to contact a number of participants who had taken part in the challenge were met with a wall of silence.
On Wednesday a telephonist at the workplace of one of the drinkers admitted failing to pass on a message for him to contact this newspaper after being told not to by a third party. She refused to say who had blocked the request from going forward.
One man, who did not wish to be named, admitted taking part in the challenge. He said about a dozen contestants had made a bid for first prize at the latest event, which took place on the Wednesday before the Delting Up-Helly-A’.
Asked why he took part, he said: “I don’t know.”
He was then asked what the appeal was for drinkers taking part in the challenge.
“I have no idea,” he said.
A recent drive to curb anti-social drinking has been run by Shetland Alcohol and Drug Action Team (SADAT), in the form of the Drink Better initiative.
The campaign aims to encourage responsible drinking, ensuring wherever possible that people keep within recommended drinking limits, which stands at three to four units a day for men, and two to three units a day for women.
Alcohol and drug development officer, Karen Smith, said the imminent new legislation should put a halt to the event.
“If activities are being promoted such as the ‘Baileys Challenge’ then license holders need to be reminded of their obligations under the new Licensing Act 2009.
“The act says applicants may be expected to demonstrate that suitable and sufficient measures have been identified and will be implemented and maintained to protect patrons’ health.
“This will include such measures as making available information with regard to sensible drinking, the effects of excessive alcohol consumption and contact points where assistance is required with problem drinking.”
Chairman of the SIC licensing board Cecil Smith said he was shocked to hear about the goings on in Brae.
“I think it’s quite irresponsible for a licensee to be doing this – encouraging people to get drunk to such an extent that they have got to go outside and vomit,” Mr Smith said.
“I mentioned this to one or two members of the board, and they were aware things like this had been happening for some time, but they did not appreciate it had been going on to such an extent.
“There is new legislation coming through in September this year that gives us far more powers and we would be expected to take action against this kind of thing.
“They can get a written warning and we can revoke their licence if need be. We would have that power.
“Matters about health and alcohol are all getting drummed into us. When you hear of licensees that are filling people up with drink like this, it does seem a bit irresponsible.”
Worryingly, a quick trawl through the internet suggests the Baileys Challenge is not unique to Shetland. Video clip internet site U-Tube shows similar events taking place in people’s homes, with drinkers standing tentatively over the toilet bowl in anticipation of a disgusting climax.
However the producers of Baileys have distanced themselves from the event.
A spokeswoman for the Diageo group – the umbrella organisation under which the liqueur falls – said no-one at the group was aware of the event.
“I can confirm that neither Diageo or Bailey’s is associated with this event,” she said. “We want consumers to enjoy our brands as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle and we certainly wouldn’t support or condone any event which encourages people drinking to excess.”