The rocky road to booze

I expect most of you are licensed or want to be. Even now though it isn’t a straightforward process for forecourts. Here is a bit of a master class for you.

Stewart Gibson, who runs licensing specialist GP Retail, says: "The biggest obstacle for forecourts is, I guess, the dreaded section 176 part of the Licensing Act which basically states that a premises is excluded from selling alcohol if it is used primarily as a garage for the sale of fuel and/or the repair of motor vehicles.

"As you know the test for this boils down to intensity of use, which we tend to calculate by actual transactions on each part of the business. I have come across retailers who believe that turnover is all important, but this cannot be the case given the price of fuel, even though it has dramatically reduced of late, so it’s the number of transactions for each part of the business that is key."

He adds that, just to muddy things a little more, there is no legal requirement to provide this information with an application, only if one of the responsible authorities or a member of the public objects under this reason. Then the committee is obliged to consider this aspect of the application before the full application can be heard.

Stewart says his stand-out case on this part of the act took place last November where his client, Park Garage Group, applied to Bromley Council for a licence in Orpington for one of its Park & Shop outlets.

They had already tried before but withdrew the original application after pressure from the police under the section 176 objection.

"They approached me and we applied again. Once again the police objected, and the application went to a hearing. The hearing was adjourned because the committee wanted detailed sales and transaction figures for the past two years to be able to consider the matter of the excluded premises."

The second hearing took place in November and despite vigorous objection from the police, the committee found in Park Garage’s favour and granted the licence.

"Obviously the figures have to stack up in the first place," says Stewart, "but then it boils down to how you present the information to the committee and argue the case. The police had the same figures and put forward an equally strong (well almost) argument against the application."

In terms of licence applications Stewart Gibson offers a complete service including the floor plan of the shop. "Many independents do not have anyone to assist them in this part of the application and often don’t realise it’s an integral part of the application."

He also provides personal licence training being registered with the BII and Highfield Training.

In terms of forecourts, he deals with Petrogas, having licensed all of its 52 sites in the UK; and has trained all their staff. He has negotiated licences for a fair proportion of Park Garage Group’s 90 sites. Symonds Forecourts is another client. "I deal with all their licence applications and planning change of use applications and planning hours changes that have become necessary at a number of their sites." It sounds like there will be more to come. He adds: "Recently I have taken on the Krisco Seyon Group, who have 18 sites in the UK. We are working on two of their sites at the moment, one of which has been refused on a couple of occasions so far."

If you think you might need help in this department, give Stewart a call on 01476 589250.

Freezer lid going spare?

In the last issue I reported on Suresh Kannan’s efforts to get the right spare part for his Wall’s ice cream freezer.

He had mistakenly ordered a top-shelf upper lid instead of a top-shelf bottom lid for the store he manages, Bournville Service Station in Weston-super-Mare.

Wall’s Refrigeration was refusing to swap the lids even though Bournville offered to pay the carriage charge.

I tried on several occasions to get a response from Wall’s but it didn’t come in time for the last issue (A rather chilly response, March 2015). I concluded my column in saying I was hoping for a response in time for the April issue.

It did eventually arrive but unfortunately it was hardly a ’true’ response. It went like this: "We are sorry to hear that the team at Bournville Service Station have had some difficulty with the ordering of their Wall’s Maxi Vision Freezer.

"As part of our terms and conditions, which all customers are made aware of at point of purchase, we do not issue refunds unless the part is damaged upon delivery.

"We strive to provide all our customers with the best possible service and are in contact with the team at Bournville Service station to work on a solution to their enquiry." Except Wall’s has not been in contact with anyone at Bournville. I wonder why they claimed that? Perhaps they should go into politics. Suresh tells me that he now has various suppliers on the look-out for a spare part on their visits to other stores. He has his Costcutter area manager on the case too. Anyone got a top-shelf bottom lid going spare?

The dark side

Have you heard? You have to cover up the fags come April 6. Yes, I know... you have, of course, heard. I just wanted to add to the clamour and urge you to make a decent-looking job of it. One retailer sent me a pic of his solution: polythene fixed across the gantry with bulldog clips. Not a pretty sight.