Council to curb City off-licences' hours

Westminster City Council is planning to reduce off-licence opening hours.

As part of a public consultation on its licensing plans, the London council proposes shortening the opening hours of shops selling alcohol in areas affected by street drinking.

It also plans to limit the number of drinks shops.

"In locations where the police report problems of street drinking or late night disorder, specific consideration will be given to restricting the number, type and the hours of premises selling alcohol exclusively for consumption off the premises," the consultation says.

One owner of a Westminster-based wine merchant said curbing trading hours would not ease the problem of under-18s binge drinking, but it would prevent alcoholics from buying alcohol.

"I can't see it making a great difference to under-age drinkers, but it would stop antisocial drinkers. A lot of people in this area have a drink problem and it would stop them waiting outside an off-licence at 8am for their fix," he said.

He added that when the shop opened seven years ago, he stopped selling beer and spirits because of the clientele he was attracting. "It took two years to get rid of the dossers and street drinkers," he said.

In March 2006 Westminster Council announced that shops applying for new licences would be banned from selling beer or cider over 5.5 per cent abv.

Lawyers and trade bodies attacked the move, saying it went beyond Westminster's remit.