It was a d-day for licencing in the capital as Tesco learned it would be able to sell alcohol at its St Mary Street store while Sainsbury’s was refused on the same street.
Cardiff magistrates granted Tesco a licence over-ruling the ‘saturation zone’ policy established by Cardiff Council in the area.
Peter Bailey, speaking on behalf of Cardiff magistrates, said he could not see a reason why Tesco should not be allowed to sell alcohol.
He said: “The policy clearly refers to late night venues. It’s quite clear a Tesco Express could hardly be referred to as a late night venue or nightclub, whatever you want to call it.”
South Wales Police had raised concerns over pre-loading, where revellers drink cheap alcohol before arriving at their destination, but Bailey felt this was not valid.
He said: “We have seen no evidence of pre-loading happening from people buying alcohol from supermarkets in St Mary Street.”
He pointed out that the council’s ‘saturation zone’ for the area did not make reference to off licences or provide enough evidence for refusing licences to off licences.
A spokesperson for Tesco said: “We take our responsibility towards the sale of alcohol very seriously. We will be operating a Think 25 policy in this store.”
Meanwhile in Cardiff Council’s licencing committee, Sainsbury’s St Mary Street store, was being refused a licence on the grounds of it being in a ‘saturation zone’.
Councillor Bob Smith, chair of licencing committee, said: “It’s a bit of a mockery. I am disappointed they’ve overturned this and it shows how out of touch the magistrates are with the people of Cardiff. They are sending out the wrong message to the people of Cardiff.
“There’s no point in this saturation policy now and no point the council spending money on it.”
Inspector Tony Bishop, in charge of policing in the city centre, said: “Whilst we are strongly against the granting of any further licences in relation to premises selling alcohol on St Mary Street, we have to respect the decision of the magistrates.
“Whilst I contemplate there will be increase in demand for particular resources as a result of this decision, we will try to police this anticipated increase accordingly.”
Inspector Bishop when asked about the magistrates disregarding his evidence on pre-loading said: “I see it every Friday and Saturday night. An off licence is another source for people to buy alcohol. I speak from experience as a front-line cop who has to manage this area.”
South Wales Police had objected to both licence applications on the grounds that they would increase crime and violence in the area, quoting figures that 409 crimes in St Mary Street in 2009 had involved the offender being under the influence of alcohol.
Kelvin Evans, owner of Floyds Bar, St Mary Street, was livid at the news.
He said: “This is disgusting. Those people should not be magistrates who have made this decision, I’m apalled.”
“There is going to be murder in these streets now.”
Councillor Elizabeth Clark, Cathays, who objected to the applications on behalf of residents, was devestated by the Tesco decision.
She said: “I am absolutely gutted. This is very upsetting news and I hoped the decision wouldn’t go through. The local community objected and didn’t want this.
“We’ll have to consider where we go from here.”
Carl Davies, manager of Nicolas off licence, was in favour of the decision.
He said: “From a business point of view it’s probably a bad thing, but it was inevitable. I don’t really have a problem with it, Tesco are a responsible retailer and it might bring more trade to the area.”
The Tesco store would be allowed to sell alcohol from 11 AM until 9 PM, Sainsbury’s are now expected to appeal their decision.
What is a saturation zone?
A saturation zone is an area where the Council feels there are already enough licenced premises and sets out not to grant anymore or any extensions to current licences. The current saturation zones are St Mary Street and City Road. The St Mary Street saturation zone deals mainly with licences for pubs, bars and night clubs but has been expanded to cover off licences. The City Road saturation zone mainly covers the granting of new off licences as the area is considered to have too many. The Council can place a saturation zone on specific roads or areas of the city.
What are the conditions of the alcohol licence?
The licence has been granted for the sale of alcohol from 11 AM – 9 PM Monday – Sunday.
However the following conditions apply:
– No beer, lager or cider over 5.5 per cent will be sold
– The location of alcohol display will be in a fixed position agreed with South Wales Police and shuttered off after and before licencing hours
– Alcohol will not be served from self-service checkouts
– No person carrying open alcohol will be allowed into the store
– Registered security guard between hours of 11 AM – 9 PM
– No external advertising of alcohol products will take place in shop windows or outside the store
– On match days beer, lager and cider will have to be sold in plastic containers only