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Drink licence refused over public welfare

Belvin’s Variety in Glebe Road (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Public welfare was a key factor in the Liquor Licence Authority’s decision not to allow the Belvin’s Variety store on Glebe Road to sell alcohol, according to the tribunal’s ruling.

In February, the LLA rejected an application by Belvin’s Variety boss, George Swan, to renew his liquor licence for the Pembroke shop in the wake of widespread opposition from the local community.

Last week, the authority released its full judgment setting out the reasons for its decision not to renew the licence, while also highlighting the importance of objections made by numerous members of the local community.

“The prevailing thread which coursed through the respective objectors’ testimonies was that it would not be in the welfare or interest of the Glebe Road community to allow Belvin’s in Glebe Road to sell intoxicating alcohol,” LLA chairman Juan Wolffe said.

“Each of the objectors described a community that, for a time, has suffered a myriad of social ills and they stressed that the introduction of yet another licensed premises in their community would only exacerbate the problems which already existed.”

Glebe Road resident Rodney Smith provided the LLA with five binders of documents and photographs as well as three videos highlighting the antisocial behaviour associated with individuals buying alcohol from the shop.

He maintained that as soon as the Belvin’s store next to his home acquired a liquor licence in November 2015, he began to endure a plethora of negative consequences, including knife-fights outside his home, people tying dogs and bikes to his gate and miniature liquor bottles being dumped in his mailbox.

Meanwhile, Pastor Dwayne Hassell from Heard Chapel AME Church and former Progressive Labour Party MP Dale Butler also objected to a renewal of Belvin’s liquor licence.

Furthermore, the LLA also received several written objections including a letter from local PLP MP Michael Weeks.

Mr Wolffe said: “We are of the view that whether it is in the public welfare to grant a liquor licence to a proposed licensed premises which is located in a particular community, neighbourhood or parish is a significant consideration.

“Possibly even more significant ... as it gives members of that particular community a real say as to how the social and physical landscape of their community should be shaped and impacted.

“In our opinion, public welfare speaks directly to the quality of life for the residents and frequent users of a particular community, and to a particular community’s moral, social, psychological, emotional, educational, financial, environmental and physical health.

“In the context of applications for liquor licences, members of a community should be empowered to prevent any potential erosion of their quality of life which may arise out of the granting or renewal of a liquor licence.”

In June last year, The Royal Gazette reported that the Glebe Road Belvin’s grocery store had its liquor licence revoked after residents complained that the sale of alcohol had prompted antisocial behaviour, traffic disruption and increased littering.

The owner of Belvin’s was also chastised by the LLA for illegally selling miniature bottles of spirits to customers at both its Glebe Road and Happy Valley stores.

Belvin’s appealed against the LLA decision to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice Ian Kawaley criticised the LLA for cherry-picking evidence when deciding to ban a grocery store from selling alcohol.

The application then reverted to the LLA who refused it in February.