Supermarkets face licence reviews over discount deals

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Related tags: Licence review, License

A Scottish licensee has succeeded in getting a full licence review of local supermarkets whose deep discounting, he claims, falls foul of licensing...

A Scottish licensee has succeeded in getting a full licence review of local supermarkets whose deep discounting, he claims, falls foul of licensing laws.

In what could be a landmark case, licensee Jeff Ellis has persuaded Fife Council that the low-pricing policies of both Morrisons and Tesco are potentially in breach of the Scottish Licensing Act - namely the "protection and improvement of public health".

Ellis, of the Bear Tavern in Fife, failed with an initial bid last month but re-submitted a more detailed 10-page application.

After hearing the application, the Fife Licensing Board decided there is a case to answer.

Caroline Williams, liquor licensing administrator at Fife Council, said: "The licence review was passed by six votes to three and the case will be heard at a full review hearing arranged for Monday 22 March".

Should Ellis's objections be upheld, there are four sanctions available: supermarkets could receive a written warning or they could have the terms of their licence varied, suspended or, in the most extreme scenario, revoked entirely.

"Anything that goes in my favour will be a massive problem for the supermarkets as it opens up the way for similar actions to be taken throughout Scotland," Ellis told The Publican.

"I think supermarkets are missing a massive PR opportunity here. When it comes to selling tobacco or non-prescription drugs, they are very responsible but the approach to alcohol is anything but.

"If they were to adopt a responsible attitude to alcohol, they'd make back on margin what they'd lose in volume and the producers would benefit too."

Should Ellis have his application upheld, he offered to provide legal advice and material to any other licensees seeking to challenge the big supermarket chains on their alcohol pricing policies.

"I've had no legal representation throughout any of this and it's been a lot of work but it's vital that we make ourselves heard - not only for the pub trade but also for the integrity of the licensing act," added Ellis.

"At the moment, only 30 per cent of alcohol retailers are playing the game. Supermarkets simply need to honour the responsibility that comes with selling alcohol".

Related topics: Licensing law

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