Reducing the Strength: licensing conditions still penalising retailers

16 September, 2016

Local authorities are no longer making a big noise about new Reducing the Strength schemes but at ground level retailers are still being subjected to requests for conditions on their licenses, according to an expert.  

Gill Sherratt, a licensing consultant for off-licences, told OLN: “I have not heard of any new schemes for a long time but the condition requests were always the more damaging, in my opinion. 

“In Portsmouth it is still a big issue. We get sent new applications from there and I don’t like the conditions at all. Some stores are being given conditions which require the police to be consulted whenever they want to stock or sell a new product over 6.5% abv. 

“If a scheme is done properly I am all for it, but it can’t be right that a supplier of goods has to run to the police every time they want to sell something and this becomes a permanent condition on their licence. These retailers often agree to it because they have to in order to get the licence in the time-frame they need.”

Sherratt also noted that in some areas, especially those with no official schemes to tackle street drinking, there is no consistency, and it is still the case that some shops may be under conditions to limit the sale of alcohol over a certain strength while a neighbouring store may not.

“It’s a toothless tiger for that very reason. You all have to do it otherwise it is useless,” she said. “The volume schemes in place already all operate differently. They don’t involve everyone and if they are to be implemented they need to involve every shop and supermarket in the area.”

She added that Portsmouth is “different” and the local authorities “probably have a pretty good grip on it because they have a full-on scheme, working as a whole with health departments and lots of other agencies as well as licensing. I have never been against the work they are doing in Portsmouth, it’s just how they are doing it.”

In contrast Sherratt highlights Brent as an area that doesn’t have an overall scheme to tackle street drinking. 

“Brent is a good example,” she said. “The authorities say they want a retailer to have a certain condition on their licence about selling alcohol above a certain strength, but there are probably loads of retailers nearby without these conditions who can sell any products. They just pick them off as they come through as licensing applications.”

Sherratt added: “I don’t believe stopping retailers selling certain products is the answer. There are people who drink those products who aren’t street drinkers and there are street drinkers who will just move on to another product, or find the product elsewhere. It is just penalising poorer people. 

“We do challenge these requests for conditions where we can. Some will back off with the requests and others will object to us challenging it.”

“But pushing Reducing the Strength as a scheme has definitely gone quiet. These things die out. Years ago it was bottle marking. It’s a fad and it’ll probably be replaced by another scheme in the future.”

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