The density of off-licences already in Castletown and its link with alcohol misuse was a key factor in the licensing court’s decision to refuse an alcohol licence to Tesco.
The decision, in relation to a proposed Tesco Express store in a unit at Callow’s Yard, was made last week.
During the two-day hearing the court had heard that Castletown had the highest density of off-licences anywhere in the island, with the exception of Jurby.
Deputy High Bailiff Jayne Hughes said deputy director of public health Dr Paul Emerson’s evidence had been relevant to the application.
He had told the court that ‘any increase in accessibility to alcohol poses a public health risk on a number of fronts’.
He said each year at least 200 people attend the accident and emergency department at Noble’s Hospital for alcohol problems, and that between 250 and 300 people attend the chronic alcohol unit each year.
Tesco UK licensing manager Greg Bartley had argued that the licence would not be an additional licence but a replacement one as The Vineyard, in Malew Street, is surrendering its one at the end of the month.
Mrs Hughes said the bench had rejected this argument.
‘The surrender of The Vineyard’s licence and this application by Tesco is not exchanging like for like and in any event the Isle of Man does not operate a one in, one out policy in respect of alcohol licences,’ she said.
The proposed Tesco Express store was due to be open 105 hours a week, compared with The Vineyard, which is open 48 hours per week.
Mrs Hughes was also critical of the market research carried out by Ipsos MORI, saying: ‘The research focused on Tesco, not on whether the requirements and circumstances of Castletown are such that a new off-licence of the type proposed was required.’
She said the court gave ‘little weight’ to the survey’s findings.
Mrs Hughes confirmed that the court was satisfied Tesco would be a ‘fit and proper licence holder’.
Mr Bartley had told the court it was his expectation the Tesco Express would not open without the alcohol licence.
‘It wouldn’t be financially viable,’ he said.
He explained in other Tesco Express stores alcohol accounted for up to 10 per cent of sales.
But it was expected without alcohol, there would also be a 30-35 per cent drop in sales of other products because people would shop elsewhere.
It was the third time the supermarket giant was refused an alcohol licence in Callow’s Yard.
• Castletown MHK Richard Ronan welcomed the court’s decision.
He said he now wants to set up a working group to developing an island-wide strategy to address the issue of the public health and social impact of the over-supply of alcohol.