Controversial 24-hour alcohol licence for Leeds off-licence rejected

An application to extend the licensing hours at an off-licence in Harehills has been rejected amid '˜heartfelt' campaigning by residents and local politicians.

The application by the Krakus off licence in Harehills Road to sell alcohol 24 hours a day hit the headlines last week when it was revealed that the police believed drink-related disorder and violence in the area had got to a stage where some residents were frightened to leave their homes.

In their objections, locals and politicians added that other 24-hour off licences in the area were having an effect on the sleeping patterns of local people, particularly young children, such was the noise created by public drunkenness.

Those concerns were repeated in a meeting of the council’s licensing sub-committee – which the applicants working on behalf of Krakus failed to attend.

The meeting also heard how gangs of drinkers would form outside the shop, with many treating it as nothing more than an outdoor bar.

Local councillor Salma Arif told the meeting: “Harehills has become a neighbourhood saturated with shops selling alcohol. These shops sit next to people’s homes, schools and places of worship.

“It is a densely populated area and what happens on the street has a huge effect on the community.

“Numerous residents have talked to me about their experience of drink-related abuse and violence on their doorsteps.

“I would urge the committee to reject it. It is not an attempt to stifle business, the area just cannot stomach another shop selling alcohol 24 hours a day.”

Despite Krakus’s lack of representation at the meeting, a document submitted on its behalf said it would combat any problems with regular staff training, CCTV and said it would not sell beer in any amount less than packs of four. It would also refuse to sell to drunk and disorderly or under-age customers.

But many believed that this simply wouldn’t help to offset the social problems 24-hour access to alcohol would bring.

A representative from West Yorkshire Police told the meeting: “Groups gather and argue. There is drunkenness on the street and public urination. It affects local residents.

“Normalisation of this behaviour has contributed to under-reporting of incidents. The premises never sought to assist the community or the police on these issues.”

A licensing officer said that, out of 482 areas in Leeds, the area of Harehills in which Krakus is located has the 14th highest instance of alcohol-flagged violent crime and the 19th highest instances of alcohol-related hospital admissions. Most of the areas higher in the lists are in Leeds City Centre, and have much higher numbers of drinkers.

Ian Charles, speaking of behalf of residents’ groups in Harehills, said: “Protecting children from harm is perhaps the biggest consideration. Already families witness dreadful behaviour outside Krakus. The men themselves are treating this shop not as an off licence, but as a bar.

“The creation of street drunkenness leads to urination and defecation. People (defecate) on the park and the playgrounds. Other people come across this and they have to clear this up.

“What little peace residents have from 11pm needs to be guarded. These children have to get up for school in the morning.”

The committee agreed to reject to application.

Following the decision, a council officer said: “The views expressed were heartfelt. The area ranks highly for alcohol-related crime. High population of dependant drinkers live in that area.

“The concern the committee had was that it would impact on police statistics for alcohol-related crimes into the early hours.

“The comments about attracting large groups of men was making people fear for their safety. Women feeling intimidated, mothers having to steer pushchairs onto the road – it makes people feel like they can not travel along the street during the daytime.”