Wakefield branches of Waterstones and Halifax object to Homemart's plan to sell alcohol

The boss of Wakefield's Waterstones store has said he fears for the safety of children in his shop if a nearby store is allowed to sell alcohol.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 12:05 pm

New convenience store Homemart recently opened on Kirkgate, in the city centre, where Edinburgh Woollen Mill used to be.

But the shop's request for an alcohol licence has been opposed by the Halifax branch which stands opposite Homemart.

Three local councillors, as well as book store Waterstones and two other neighbouring businesses have also lodged strongly-worded objections.

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Waterstones said theft, crime and abusive drunken behaviour was commonplace on Kirkgate - claims echoed by several other businesses in the area.

They've all complained that allowing another premises to sell booze will make Kirkgate's well-documented problems with nuisance drinkers even worse.

Homemart, which was recently officially opened by the mayor of Wakefield, says the shop will be "responsibly managed and supervised" and that alcohol will be confined to the "far side" of the store and behind the counter.

They want a licence to sell booze from 6am until 11pm.

But in a written objection to Wakefield Council, Mikey Catley, writing on behalf of Waterstones, said that shop staff already have to put up with crime, theft and "general abuse".

Homemart opened its doors on the site of the city's old Edinburgh Woollen Mill store.

He said: "There are regular fights and shouting matches just outside our shop.

"Opening a store to sell alcohol here, from 6am, is only going to greatly increase this.

"We have a large kids' section on our ground floor. We have plans for kids' book clubs and reading clubs.

"I'm not going to feel I can guarantee the safety of kids in our store if there are more and more collections of drunks outside.

Councillor Betty Rhodes said she wanted the store to run at reduced opening hours.

"It will damage the Cathedral's tourism and kids visiting, it will damage our store's profit from kids visiting and the whole of the area."

Pool bar Shooters, which is nextdoor to Homemart, are also firmly against the idea.

Boss David Laffey said: "Visitors (and) customers to ourselves, shops and major banks within this area already suffer noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour at all hours of the day and night.

"They have endured this inconvenience since I started operating in 1999, and it's totally unacceptable and would expect them to continue and increase if the licence was granted."

Wool 'n' Stuff, which is also located on Kirkgate, said they'd had customers "too scared to leave our shop due to the aggressive behaviour of the drunks".

The manager of Halifax's Kirkgate branch, Caroline Earley, said the behaviour of a group of people outside the bank was putting the public in danger.

In her objection, she said: "We have had to call the police on numerous occasions because they have been threatening towards our staff and I fear that adding easy access to alcohol would be a risk to our safety, especially when we are leaving work in the dark winter evenings.

She added that the group, "Push, shove and actually fight and if anyone is passing by they are at risk of being injured by their actions."

Labour councillors Betty Rhodes and Margaret Isherwood, who represent the Wakefield North ward, have also opposed the licence, alongside Wakefield East's Stuart Heptinstall.

All three expressed similar sentiments to the shops in their written remarks, with Coun Rhodes saying Homemart's opening times were "not acceptable and not needed".

She said she had no problem with the store operating on reduced hours, without the licence

A hearing on Tuesday is set to determine whether or not the shop will be allowed the licence.

In their application, Homemart representative Harika Yedla said the shop wanted to sell beer, cider and wine "on the far side of the store in the last aisle and spirits will be merchandised behind the till counter."

She also promised the store will be kept in "clean and tidy condition to the satisfaction of the (council)" and that the premises would comply with all legislation and conditions at all times.

Local Democracy Reporting Service