Garages seek right to sell alcohol...

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The Independent Online
OFF-licences could be opened at hundreds of petrol stations if garage owners succeed in a controversial new challenge to the licensing laws.

The Petrol Retailers' Association, representing service-station operators, will launch a New Year campaign to change laws which prevent its members getting alcohol licences.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which is launching its Christmas anti-drink-driving campaign today, is opposed to the move. David Williams, chief constable of Surrey and secretary of its traffic committee, said: "Drinking and driving do not mix and there is always the danger that a driver will be tempted to buy a bottle instead of a soft drink."

The petrol retailers' lawyers will also take about 50 "test" licence applications before magistrates all over the country One garage owner has already won a test case and began selling beer, wines and spirits from a service-station forecourt at East Molesey, Surrey on Wednesday night.

The existing law, bars forecourt alcohol sales unless the operator can prove most of its custom is non-petrol or that the off-licence is a separate business on the same site.

The retailers' association, which represents 7,000 of the 18,000 petrol stations, claims many sites are, in effect, general stores. It argues that garages should be treated in the same way as supermarkets and that there is no evidence that motorists would be more likely to drink and drive.

The motoring organisations do not object. Edmund King of the RAC said: "Our only reservation would be sales at motorway service stations, which are not convenience stores."