Call to ban sale of miniatures
Published:  01 October, 2010

Shops in London’s Soho district are being asked not to stock miniature bottles of spirits because of their widespread use in illicit drug-taking.

Westminster City Council, whose patch includes Soho, is urging the voluntary step after investigating the possibility of a ban as part of an ongoing review of its licensing policy.

It is also looking to introduce a freeze on new licences to off-sales premises in Soho – a defined “stress area” in its current policy – as part of the review.

Watford Borough Council is considering a similar freeze on new licences for off-premise sales in one area of the Hertfordshire town.

A Westminster spokeswoman said: “Miniatures aren’t something we can ban in law but we’re asking some smaller off-licences in trouble spots not to stock them because they are used by drug addicts.”?Drinks containers are among a number of vessels used for smoking crack.

Philip Shorten, manager of Milroy’s of Soho whisky shop, said: “We have had one experience of someone looking to make a purchase that wasn’t for the reason the products were intended, but we refused the sale.

“The vast majority of sales are to tourists or people looking to buy a gift. Why should we punish the majority for the actions of a few who will sadly find an alternative anyway?”?Westminster is including the freeze on new off-licences in Soho – an area which includes top-end specialist off-licence outlets such as Gerry’s and Vintage House and many convenience stores – in its draft licensing review.

Its licensing department sees it as a way of curbing preloading by consumers heading for a night out in the district’s bars and clubs.

Watford council’s consultation on its new policy states “applications for new off-licences in the [Whippendell Road] area will be strictly refused if relevant representations are received, unless the applicant can show it is to replace another premises of a similar or comparable size”.

Watford council licensing officer Jeffrey Leib said: “There is heavy concentration of licensed premises in this area with 20% of commercial premises licensed already.

“There’s been a lot of antisocial behaviour in the area connected with one off-licence in particular that had its licence revoked.

“If anyone objects on the grounds of any of our licensing objectives not being met, we would have to consider whether it’s appropriate to grant a licence in this area.”

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