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Ann Cleeves Town Hall

Shop to increase alcohol hours despite NHS concerns

| Written by Chris Cope, local democracy reporter

A SOUTH mainland shop will be allowed to sell alcohol from 10am to 10pm seven days a week despite concerns from NHS Shetland over the accessibility of drink.

Shetland Islands Council's licensing board approved an application on Tuesday from Mainlands Mini Market in Dunrossness as it moves alcohol sales from the standalone Keg off-licence into its main store.

Booze is currently on sale at Da Keg - which is a stone's throw from the mini market - from 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday and 2pm to 5pm on Sundays.

Owner Thomas Bain said moving alcohol into the main shop and closing Da Keg will help accessibility for staff, while he added the store is likely to only be open until 9pm on busy nights.

The only concerns came from NHS Shetland, which said the application was "inconsistent" with the isles' licensing objectives such as protecting and improving public health, as it will increase the visibility and accessibility of drink.

There was disappointment from councillors that there was no NHS Shetland representative at Tuesday's licensing meeting.

Lerwick North councillor Malcolm Bell said that while he had sympathy with the health board's views, a "blanket objection" did not do their case much good.

NHS Shetland - which wrote that the isles has a problem with "over consumption" of alcohol - also asked that a "condition of awarding a premises licence is that staff clearly understand how to recognise problem drinking, and know where to direct customers for help and support if required".

It said it could provide small cards and information which could be displayed in any premises that sell alcohol.

Fellow town councillor Cecil Smith agreed with Bell's views, while North Mainland member Alastair Cooper suggested that NHS Shetland's proposed condition should instead be discussed at the isles' next licensing forum meeting.

Licensing board vice-chairman George Smith, who represents the south end, said the committee had to be consistent in its decisions and said he was not convinced that moving alcohol sales into the main shop will encourage drinking.

He seconded a move by Cecil Smith to grant the application.

Chairman Ian Scott said after the meeting that the matter of drink in Shetland is a bigger issue than the mechanics of licensing.

The Mainlands application comes at a time when the licensing board is also considering whether any areas of Shetland has an issue with over provision of alcohol, with the health board claiming there are too many off-licences in Lerwick.

"I think alcohol abuse is a worry, drug addiction is a worry, but I don't think though it gets properly addressed by the amount of outlets there are," Scott said.

"I think it's a far deeper, far greater issue and a far more profound issue than just the amount of pubs and off-licences there are."

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