Stourbridge 'try before you buy' off-licence wins go-ahead despite on-street drinking fears
Stourbridge's first try-before-you-buy off-licence – dubbed a place ‘for serious drinker not boozers’ – will open in September, despite fears of on-street drinking.
The Haul! store on Lower High Street will sell specialist, takeaway bottled and canned beers, and allow customers to taste ales before taking them home.
Owner Paul Tunnicliffe told Dudley Council’s licensing committee the shop was for lovers of craft ales who could afford the £10 a bottle prices and not £5 four-pack drinkers.
Opposing the application, local resident Richard Hopkins said the shop was located in Stourbridge’s cumulative impact zone set up to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour.
Saying it would be next to residents’ homes, and opposite the local job centre and a nursery, he added: “I am concerned that the off-license cum tasting bar will prove a magnet to daytime drinkers who will become rowdy and troublesome.
“The job centre already has to have full time security officer on the door to control antisocial behaviour. If there is an off-licence directly opposite, alcohol sales are likely to fuel more such behaviour.
“Likewise, I don’t think It is sensible to have an off-licence tasting bar which seems set to attract daytime drinkers to be opposite a nursery where parents are picking up their children mid-afternoon.”
He also told the the committee he feared the proposed opening hours of 12 noon until 8pm could be extended in future to allow late night sales and drinking.
His objections were the second attempt to prevent the store opening after the council’s development committee granted planning permission in June.
At that time, Councillor Ray Burston, who backed the plans, said: “ From what I’ve observed of these kind of establishments they don’t tend to generate anti-social behaviour. It tends to be people who are more serious drinkers rather than boozers.”
Addressing the licensing committee, Mr Tunnicliffe, said he had no wish to run a bar or planned to extend the opening hours.
Comparing the business to a wine merchants selling champagne and exclusive wines, he added: “We have no interest in opening a bar.
“This is a high end place selling craft beers and not the sort of place like a supermarket where you go in and pick a few cans for under a fiver.
“Our products start around £4 a bottle and can go up to £10.”
“The business as a whole is based on online sales and the shop is almost an afterthought and would be a place where people can try our more expensive products “
Saying customers would be charged for the beers they tasted, he added: “We are not serving pints. We go up to an absolute maximum of two thirds and for stronger drinks as a little as a half a pint to a third.
“The idea is to sample and then buy from our take out service.”