By Joe Sweeney, Local Democracy Reporter
A convenience store in Wolverhampton is seeking the approval of licensing bosses to stock high-strength alcohol products, provided they are sold in packs of four and not as single bottles or cans.
The Costcutter in Graiseley Lane, Wednesfield, also known as Bains Store, has applied to the council for a variation to its licensing conditions that will allow it to sell alcoholic drinks with an ABV of 5.8% or above.
Concerns about amending the licence have been raised by West Midlands Police and public health, who fear it could lead to anti-social behaviour and an increased likelihood of risk to those affected by alcohol-related harm.
A statement on behalf of the store, submitted alongside the application, said: “The variation we request is for the condition that says we are not permitted to sell or stock any beers, ciders or lagers above 5.8% ABV to be removed entirely from the licence, thus giving us the ability to stock a wider range of beverages in our store.
“We understand and accept that this condition was imposed taking several important factors into account in 2016 when we first applied for our premises licence. However, we now feel that sufficient time has passed to justify the request for its removal.
“We pride ourselves on being responsible retailers of alcohol and tobacco and have gone above and beyond to uphold all licensing objectives as a business, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
“I simply ask that you take into consideration that we have been trading for almost seven years now without any major incident, and I strongly believe that the removal of this one condition will not have any significant impact on our ability to uphold any of the licensing objectives,” it added.
“We have a strong reputation within the community as trustworthy and dependable retailers, and the fact that we have yet to be subjected to any test purchase exercises carried out by the council speaks volumes. We keep full and detailed refusal logs and although rarely used, our incident log is also very comprehensive and detailed in comparison to other local businesses, as I was told by one of your team’s representatives when they came to visit us in May.
“As I’m sure you can appreciate, the cost of inflation has had a major impact on our business over the past year with our utility bills – which were already sky-high – doubling and tripling. Add in the fact that we have had to increase our prices due to inflation, which has disgruntled customers and led to a dip in the level of spending in our shop.
“One of the only things that keeps those regular customers coming back is our reputation for stocking a wider variety of lines across all items in comparison to other local shops – particularly when it comes to alcoholic beverages. We are told this by regulars time and time again,” said the statement.
“We rely on that reputation to keep the regular customers coming back, as we offer them the convenience of wider variety on their doorstep, alleviating the need to travel out to bigger supermarkets. Removal of that one condition would enable us to stock a wider variety of alcoholic drinks, thus helping us stay afloat as a business.”
Senior public health specialist Ryan Hollings said: “Although the application is outside of a cumulative impact zone (CIZ), the original inclusion prohibiting sale of high-strength alcohol would be something public health would advocate to be maintained within the premises licence.
“As a responsible authority, we have a duty across all four licensing objectives and with these licence obligations this supports the ongoing work within the city to reduce alcohol-related harm.
“Super-strength alcohol sales are most commonly associated with street drinkers and research has identified repeated problems caused by them, such as anti-social behaviour and low-level crimes such as theft and littering.”
PC Alison Oldfield from Wolverhampton Police added: “West Midlands Police have mediated with the applicant and the licence holder has signed the mediation form that adds the following licensing condition: beer, cider, lager and mixed drinks – such as cocktails and alcopops with an ABV of 5.8% or above – must be sold in multipacks of a minimum of four units. Multipacks must not be split.”
The applicant and all those who have submitted representations have been invited to attend the hearing on Wednesday August 30, when licensing chiefs will make a decision on the request.
(Local Democracy Reporting Service)