Published on July 12th, 2011 | by Dean Carr
99p booze ban could be imposed on off-licences in Leicester city centre
Police are hoping to stop a group of off-licences in Leicester city centre selling the strong and notoriously cheap alcohol favoured by street drinkers.
Eight shops have been identified as regular destinations for alcoholics attracted by booze on sale for as little as 99p.
Now, police are hoping to prevent these shops, all in the Granby Street and London Road area, from selling any bottled or canned beers, lagers or ciders stronger than 5.5 per cent alcohol volume.
It is the first time city police have sought to restrict the right of a group of shops to sell such products.
The city council’s licensing panel will be asked to make the condition legally binding by writing it into each shop’s alcohol licence. Traders aim to fight the plan.
Inspector Chris Cockerill, commander of city centre police, said officers had gone through a period of “deep deliberation” before deciding to call for reviews of the shops’ licences.
“We appreciate whatever action we take has to balance the commercial interests of the shopkeepers and the wellbeing of the community and these areas of the city,” he said. “This proposed action is not being taken lightly and we do not see it as a quick fix.”
Dilawer Singh, of HMM Stores, in Granby Street, said he would contest the police application because if it went through it would hit trade.
“This isn’t fair,” he said. “It’s only a handful of people who drink and make trouble around here. The police have taken it very seriously and done a good job of dealing with them.
“But we also have some regular and good customers who come in on their way home from work to buy some of the stronger lager or cider.
“A lot of the businesses in Granby Street are struggling because there are a lot of empty properties up here and there isn’t so much passing trade. This will only make things more difficult.”
Granby Street resident Lee Pickering, a former Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator for the area, said: “We’ve been asking for this step to reduce sales of strong, cheap alcohol for a long time.
“You can see people begging for a few minutes and then wandering into the shops to buy a bottle of cider for less than a pound.
“Then they take it out into places like Granby Street and drink it in the open. After a while they become aggressive.”
Some major chains in the area voluntarily imposed the restriction on high-strength alcohol sales when they applied for their licences.
Tesco agreed to the restriction when it opened its shop in London Road, next to the railway station, two years ago.
Sainsbury’s will also operate the policy in the shop it is to open in the former home of the Wyvern pub, in Granby Street.
In April, city police launched the latest phase of their ongoing efforts to reduce street drinking, including enlisting the help of homelessness and addiction specialists.
At the time, health workers estimated there were between 30 and 40 regular street drinkers in the city centre.
About a dozen of those have been identified as particularly problematic because of their aggressive and intimidating behaviour.
Police will make the case for the restriction during individual hearings for each of the shops in the next few weeks.
Source : This is Leicetershire