Forecourt stores could be under threat if proposals announced by (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) NICE to

limit the number of alcohol licences in a given area became Government policy.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Artificial limits on the number of licences allowed in a geographical area would lead to some responsible retailers not being able to get licences, and even some existing licensees losing their alcohol licence through no fault of their own. The award and retention of an alcohol licence should be based on a retailer’s ability to sell alcohol responsibly, not on an arbitrary judgment of how many licences should be granted in that area.

“For smaller stores developing their offer, gaining an alcohol licence is a crucial part of becoming a fully-fledged convenience store. For shops which already sell alcohol, losing their licence would severely impact on their viability. There is no credible evidence that limiting licences for local shops would reduce alcohol harm, nor is there evidence that the net number of licences in local shops has increased in recent years.

“This report is the latest in a series that calls on the one hand for punitive measures against businesses and on the other a soft line against irresponsible individual behaviour. In this report NICE calls for businesses to have their livelihoods taken away and for individuals that drink harmfully to fill out a questionnaire. We believe that Government policy has to be balanced effectively between the responsibilities of business on the one hand and individuals on the other.”

The NICE report also calls for further Government interventions including: the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol; and a ban on advertising of alcohol.

On minimum pricing, James Lowman said: ““The current evidence about how minimum pricing reduces alcohol harm among the key problem groups is inconclusive. However, convenience retailers have little to fear from a properly set minimum unit price so ACS has made it clear that if minimum pricing is the route the Government wants to go down, we are very happy to take part in discussions on it.”