Published on October 17th, 2012 | by Dean Carr
Can a petrol station become licensed and sell alcohol?
Under article 176 of the Licensing Act 2003, motorway service stations and garages/petrol stations may not sell alcohol under a premises licence. It is deemed that the sale of alcohol would be inappropriate at these venues because the customer would most likely arrive and leave by motor vehicle. Nevertheless, there are certain exceptions to the rule.
Licensing a garage/petrol station
Despite article 176, petrol stations are frequently licensed in the United Kingdom. The management of a garage or petrol station can apply for a premises licence if they can prove footfall and public need. In this event, the ‘shop’ area of the building would be considered separate to the main function of the building.
Footfall: A majority of customers arrive at the premises by foot and/or public transport, as opposed to by motor vehicle.
Public need: There is a genuine community need for this service.
If a petrol station shop is the only shop in walking distance of a residential estate, an application for a premises licence may be successful. A petrol station just off a motorway junction would almost certainly not succeed in securing a premises licence. Premises within a motorway service station will always be considered non-applicable, regardless of arguments for footfall and public need.
What is a ‘garage’ under the Licensing Act 2003?
Premises are considered a garage under the act if they are used for one or more of the following:
The retail of petrol
The retail of derv
The sale of motor vehicles
The maintenance of motor vehicles
Case study: Portsmouth petrol station wins alcohol licence
A Portsmouth petrol station has just secured a premises licence. Portsmouth City Licensing Committee have granted the licence to the site on Milton Road, now under the new ownership of Rontec Watford Ltd. The petrol station shop must now operate as a separate convenience store area, to satisfy article 176 of the Licensing Act 2003.
The licence was granted despite strong opposition from neighbours, Trading Standards and Portsmouth City Council leader Mr Gerald Vernon Jackson, who is also the councillor for Milton.
Rontec Watford Ltd initially wanted 24 hour sale of alcohol but compromised with the police, who warned it could cause anti social behaviour. The garage has also guaranteed to impose a Challenge 25 policy of age verification. Police will be monitoring sales to ensure the garage adheres to the licensing laws.
Concern and opposition to the licensing of petrol stations
The UK health group Alcohol Concern have called more research to examine whether, and to what extent, alcohol sales at petrol stations contribute to an increased incidence of drink-driving. The Welsh Assembly Government, meanwhile, has formally identified banning the sale of alcohol at petrol stations in Wales as an effective measure to tackle inappropriate availability of alcohol at the roadside.
The Alcohol Concern summary can be viewed in Fuelling the problem? The sale of alcohol at petrol stations in Wales.
Special thanks to Sara Baker for contributions