Provisional alcohol licences have been granted for two new Co-op stores in Shetland – despite concerns raised by a health board over “potential overprovision“.
The stores, planned for Scalloway and Sandwick, are expected to open in late 2023 or early in 2024.
Shetland’s licensing board granted the seven day a week, 10am to 10pm provisional licences at a meeting on Monday morning.
But NHS Shetland had responded to the licence applications by saying they would represent a “huge increase” in the availability of off sales alcohol in the areas.
“Off-sales alcohol are known to be more harmful than on-sales because the alcohol is then consumed in an unregulated environment,” the representation added.
However representative for national retailer Co-op Eilidh McGuire said alcohol would only account for around 12% of sales in the Sandwick store, for instance.
And she said the idea of reducing the capacity of alcohol being sold would probably not affect sales and would only lead to more regular restocking.
The health board also raised concern abut the having the alcohol aisle and the beer, wine and spirits promotions close to the checkouts, adding that it is “not good practice for people who are dependent on or seeking to reduce their alcohol consumption”.
It suggested a first step would be to reduce the quantity of alcohol being sold, reconsider the placement of the products and think about the support that will be offered to people who are struggling with alcohol use.
Finally, the health board said it would appreciate the licensing board giving consideration as to whether it would create overprovision in Scalloway and Sandwick.
Councillors said they had sympathy for the health board’s views, but were minded to approve the applications.
SIC solicitor Paul Wishart said there was deemed to be no overprovision at the moment in Shetland.
Overprovision could potentially cover Shetland as a whole, or “it could be a street in Lerwick”, he said.
McGuire told Monday’s meeting that the placement of alcohol in Co-op stores was something which has been “carefully considered” for years.
But she said having alcohol at the back of store does not provide the “benefits” that is hoped.
Instead, she said having alcohol closer to tills can increase monitoring and also the promotion of licensing objectives.
McGuire added that the Co-op want the new Shetland outlets to be “well run” stores.
Shetland North councillor Tom Morton, meanwhile mentioned how some alcohol is kept behind counters – items which may be more likely to be the subject of theft or which are most “in demand”, like Buckfast and half-bottles of spirits.
McGuire confirmed that this was a Co-op policy and one that would be replicated in the new shops.