Alcohol licence approved for Oswestry market despite fears of impact on 'struggling' nearby pubs

Town councillors were divided over plans to seek an alcohol licence for Oswestry’s indoor market after concerns were raised that it could impact the trade of nearby pubs.

The indoor market in Oswestry
The indoor market in Oswestry

A package of support measures for the market traders was signed off by members at a town council meeting on Wednesday evening, including a temporary rent reduction and extra opening days.

Plans to apply for a licence for alcohol to be sold and consumed on the premises were narrowly voted through despite criticism that the step could damage neighbouring businesses who were themselves trying to stay afloat through the pandemic.

Markets and events manger David Clough told the council the market traders had worked hard to adapt to the challenges posed by the current situation but, “the second lockdown has been difficult for everybody”.

He asked councillors to support proposals to open the market on Thursdays in December, as well as late night opening events on the three Fridays before Christmas and additional opening days in Christmas week to compensate for the market being closed for the two bank holidays.

Mr Clough further asked for a 25 per cent reduction in traders’ rent during the first three months of 2021 when a drop in trade is expected after the Christmas period, and for two months' worth of support to new market businesses with the Be A Better Fish scheme, amounting to £50 per trader.

Councillor Jay Moore said: “I thought 25 per cent seemed kind of low. They have been hit hard during these times. Can we consider taking it further?”

He proposed a rent reduction of 50 per cent and this was supported by eight votes to five, with two abstentions.

The town council has also applied to Shropshire Council for a licence permitting alcohol to be sold at the market for consumption on and off the premises. Previously traders have had to seek their own licence in order to sell alcohol.

Competition

Councillor Vince Hunt said: “I have an issue with this.

“We have got three hostelries on the Bailey Head who are being made to close, and here we are as a council subsidising traders and giving them a licence for alcohol consumption on premises.

“We are offering them to sell alcohol in direct competition with businesses that are really, really struggling, and my conscience won’t allow me to do that.”

This was supported by Councillor Sandy Best, who said: “I have no objection to the sale of it but I am in agreement with Vince. At the moment I think it’s the wrong time to be doing this.”

Members narrowly voted not to limit the licence application to prevent alcohol being consumed on the premises, with seven votes for and eight against.

Councillor Jay Moore said: “I think it’s an excellent idea, we want to try and make the market as vibrant as possible.”

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