Council split over Morrisons’ offer of free booze at Bishopbriggs

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Morrisons supermarket in Bishopbriggs has been granted permission to offer customers free samples of locally produced alcoholic drinks.

Morrisons already operates  a Local Food Makers promotion in several of its other branches, which highlights goods made by small-scale independent producers.

In preparation for bringing this scheme to Bishopbriggs, the store asked East Dunbartonshire Council for permission to provide small, free samples of alcoholic beverages for customers to taste.

The application split opinions at the council’s licensing board hearing on  Thursday, August 16.

Morrisons confirmed the free samples would not exceed half a unit of alcohol, would be strictly limited to one per customer, and age limits would be strictly enforced by the specially-trained staff at the kiosk.

Further, the kiosk would not offer comparative samples of more than one product and would provide comprehensive information about sensible alcohol use as well as operating on a challenge 25 basis.

Drinks sampling is already offered in Waitrose Milngavie and Majestic Wine in Bearsden.

“This is to give people a small taste of the product and decide whether or not to buy it, rather than give people free drinks. The kiosk would only operate for perhaps a couple of hours a month,” said Morrisons solicitor Roland Taylor.

Given that there were no objections from police, NHS and licensing delegates reporting to the board, the meeting’s convener Jim Gibbons moved to grant the application .

Councillor Gary Pews moved to refuse the application. He said:  “I am concerned about this  application on two grounds, namely public health and public safety.

“Drink driving limits have been drastically reduced in recent years and the majority of customers at this supermarket drive there. ”

Councillor Gordan Low seconded the refusal, saying that he was uncomfortable with the idea of promoting consuming even a small amount of alcohol before driving.

The committee was split with three members voting to grant and three voting to refuse, so the application was granted on the strength of the convener’s casting vote.

Neil McGrory , Local Democracy Reporting Service