A BID from Hartlepool’s Morrisons supermarket to open and sell alcohol 24 hours a day has been refused by councillors.

The retailer submitted an application to Hartlepool Borough Council to vary the hours of its licence for the Clarence Road store, to enable it to open 24 hours a day, including selling alcohol at all times.

However concerns had been raised by Darab Rezai, chairman of Hartlepool Licensees Association, along with a nearby resident, who argued the move would contribute to alcohol issues in the town.

Mr Rezai argued it was ‘insensitive’ to put the application in during the Covid-19 pandemic and was a ‘slap on the face’ to people.

On Friday the council licensing sub-committee met to hear the application, and council chiefs later confirmed the proposals were refused.

Richard Taylor, speaking on behalf of Morrisons, said the supermarket was looking for the same ‘flexibility’ afforded to similar stores in Hartlepool in regards to opening hours.

Council officers confirmed Tesco and Asda in Hartlepool have a 24-hour licence, including the sale of alcohol, subject to Sunday trading rules, but they are not necessarily using them at the moment.

Morrisons current opening hours are 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday, although they have a licence until midnight, and 10am to 4pm on Sundays.

Mr Taylor said the extended hours would allow them to meet customer demand, such as in the run up to Christmas, and extra precautions would be taken.

He also noted police offered no objections to the proposals, and there are no existing issues at the site with alcohol sales.

He said: “This application is all about flexibility. What we’re seeking is exactly the same flexibility that’s enjoyed by Asda, which is just over the railway line from us, and by Tesco, which is just down the road.

“We believe there will be demand from shoppers to shop when they feel most comfortable, and that may well be later in the evening.

“If we’re open after midnight, we will have additional security, there is nothing more important to us than the safety of those that work for us and those that are in our store. “

Mr Taylor added had the supermarket been granted the changes to its licence, it would not necessarily always be open 24 hours and it would depend on demand.

While they hoped to do so in the run up to Christmas, they said they would be ‘very, very unlikely’ to do so come the end of January.

He stressed staff are fully trained on their responsibilities, and alcohol would not be sold to anyone who is intoxicated, while the challenge 25 policy and CCTV would be in place.

He also added across the country Morrisons have around 500 stores and 100 petrol filling stations licensed, and since the Licensing Act 2003 was brought in 17 years ago, they have never faced a review due to any issues.

However Darab Rezai, chairman of Hartlepool Licensees Association (HLA), representing the town’s hospitality traders, argued extending the licence would exacerbate issues with alcohol consumption in the town.

He said: “We are heavily ruled and governed by all the regulations, but sadly the supermarkets are not.

“We are going back again to the dark ages where we are letting the supermarkets provide 24 hour alcohol at a cut down price.

“Drink is supposed to be a social thing. It was a social thing that you go with your parents, grandparents, to a pub in the countryside, you have a drink and you have a talk and you go home.”

He added it was a ‘slap in the face’ for the supermarket to make the application during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “I actually like Morrisons, you do community work, but you have spoiled it.

“At such an insensitive time you have put in for a licence, we are facing Covid-19, all the bars and nightclubs are closed, you are slapping everybody on the face.” 

He added he feared it could lead to more shops being able to gain a 24 hour licence to sell alcohol if Morrisons was allowed to do so.

Resident Julia Taylor added that addictions, such as alcohol, need to be tackled, and she wants to see action taken to do this, such as limiting access to alcohol across the board.

The application also included permission for the sale of late night refreshment such as hot coffees and hot rotisserie chicken, but supermarket bosses stressed the cafe would not be open through the night.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Rezai, on behalf of the HLA, thanked councillors for ‘standing up and listening to the residents and businesses’ and the concerns they raised over the 24 hour opening and alcohol sales.

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “Morrisons of Clarence Road applied to vary their licence to allow them to sell alcohol for 24 hours per day.

“The Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee heard objections from Hartlepool Licensees’ Association and a local resident and representations from Morrisons and decided that the application should be refused.

“Morrisons have been advised of their right to appeal this decision.”