Blackpool bargain store facing battle to be allowed to sell alcohol

The B&M store on Church Street
The B&M store on Church Street
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A popular discount store could become a casualty of stricter rules on selling alcohol in Blackpool town centre.

But despite not having a licence to sell booze at its new Church Street site, B&M Bargains is already advertising alcohol on signs both inside and outside the shop – even though there is none on the shelves.

Councillors will next week meet to decide whether to grant an alcohol licence to the retail giant after the application was opposed by Blackpool’s director of public health.

Dr Arif Rajpura warned the town centre is “already saturated with alcohol premises” and voiced fears another could lead to an increase in violence and heath problems.

But B&M, which refused to comment on the signs advertising alcohol, including a ‘spirits’ shelf that was last week stocked with razors, said the application is effectively a “swap” deal for the licence at the recently closed Bank Hey Street store.

READ MORE: Is there too much booze in Blackpool town centre?

In papers submitted to the council ahead of Thursday’s hearing, the firm argued: “The like for like relocation of one store with another, which is four minutes’ walk away, will not add to cumulative impact in the area.”

While it conceded the new site was larger than the previous store, it said it would accept restrictions on the sale of high strength lager which is more attractive to street drinkers, and alcohol sales would make up just 2.5 per cent of its sales area.

Because Church Street falls within Blackpool Council’s Off-licence Saturation Policy area, there is an automatic presumption that new bids to sell booze will be refused in all but “genuinely exceptional cases”.

The policy was updated in 2015, meaning the application will be judged by tougher standard than B&M’s initial bid to sell alcohol at its Bank Hey Street store in 2011.

B&M has applied to Blackpool Council for a licence to sell alcohol from 7am until 10pm every day, although its says the store will normally only open from 8am until 8pm.

In papers lodged as part of the objection, Dr Rajpura said the company had “not taken the wider challenging factors of the area into consideration”.

He added: “Public health is aware of the problem of street drinking within the locality in which this premises is located.

READ MORE: The alcohol problem in Blackpool

“These problems have a negative impact on the public safety and sense of health and wellbeing of the local community.”

In its submission, B&M said it accepts “high strength, low-cost alcohol could be attractive to street drinkers and could affect public health generally” and “could lead to street drinkers targeting the store”.

However, it said it is not aiming to attract such customers and it was “happy to accept restrictions on super strength lager, beer and cider” – although it hoped to be able to sell single cans and bottles of craft ales, as its other stores do, despite the fact the Bank Hey Street store was prevented from doing so.

On its website, B&M advertises “cheap beer, ale, lager and more”, although the offerings are in line with supermarket prices. A single 500ml bottle of 5 per cent strength pilsner was priced at £1.35.

Four cans of 3.6 per cent bitter retail for £3.15 – under a pound a can – while the same amount of 5 per cent premium lager costs £4.49.