By James Atkinson
Woolworths is frustrated at the "misguided" opposition by Western Australian health authorities to big box liquor stores, which the retailer says adds unnecessary time, expense and uncertainty to the licence application process.
Speaking as Woolworths finally got the go-ahead to open a Dan Murphy's store in Cannington, Perth, national liquor licensing & acquisitions manager, Shane Tremble said the retailer has no problem with communities having a large amount of input into the liquor licensing process.
"We absolutely support that approach," he told TheShout.
But Tremble is concerned at the routine objection of WA health authorities to big box liquor store applications "regardless of the demographic composition of the community or the circumstances of the application".
"In other states, yes, we do get interventions from various state authorities including health departments," Tremble said.
"But they're not routine, they're considered interventions."
Tremble said the intervention of WA health authorities was the reason why it took two years to get approval for the Cannington Dan Murphy's store after the retailer lodged its licence application in December 2009.
"For whatever reason, there seems to be a particularly vociferous anti-alcohol activist cohort in WA," he said.
"This adds time, cost, uncertainty and complexity to the application process."
He would not comment on the licensing authorities' rejection of Woolworths' application for a store in Bicton, which was also opposed by the executive director of public health, and is now the subject of Supreme Court proceedings by the retailer.
Tremble said the WA health authorities seem to have focused their attention on big box stores because they believe these stores will bring more harm to a community as a result of the fact that they sell more alcohol.
He stressed that the consumption of alcohol sold by these stores is spread across a much larger trade area, and is offset by less alcohol sales in surrounding suburbs.
"There's plenty of evidence to support that view," he said.
Woolies boasts unblemished record in WA
Tremble said Woolworths has a perfect record of responsible service of alcohol in WA.
He also pointed out that over the period the retailer has opened more than 150 Dan Murphy's stores across Australia, there has been no massive spike in alcohol consumption.
"The long-term trend is one of declining consumption," he said.
He said the reason big box liquor stores are expanding in Australia is that consumers love them.
"Our view is that the attempt to somehow paint these stores as being inherently evil on the basis that they sell more alcohol than a smaller store is misguided," Tremble said.
"It's an attempt to turn back the clock and try and prevent people from accessing a standard of shopping and service that is well beyond what has been provided in the past."
He stressed that the problems the retailer has faced in WA are not the fault of the state's licensing authority.
"Given the resources they've got they do a pretty good job," he said.