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Thu 2nd May 2013 - Breaking news - JDW applies for M40 services alcohol licence
JD Wetherspoon applies for alcohol licence at Beaconsfield service station: The plan by JD Wetherspoon to open a pub at Beaconsfield service station, off Junction Two of the M40, first revealed by Propel, has moved a step closer with the company applying to South Bucks District Council for an alcohol licence. If given the go-ahead, it would be the country’s first licensed pub at a motorway service area. The council is likely to rule on whether to grant permission for the licence by the end of June. John Gaunt, of John Gaunt & Partners, said: “The traditional headline was that it was not possible - but this conclusion failed to take account of the fine print of the law. The position is confusing but clearly there are motorway service areas, which do have licences - although historically the general understanding was that they should not be licensed. In simple terms - a Government owned service station is excluded currently from selling alcohol, whereas a privately owned service area not necessarily so if you can persuade the local licensing authority to grant you a premises licence. Section 176 of the Licensing Act ‘prohibits the sale of alcohol at motorway service areas and garages etc.’ However the detail of the section prohibits the sale of alcohol in respect of motorway service areas which are ‘premises situated on land acquired or appropriated by a special road authority, and for the time being used, for the provision of facilities to be used in connection with the use of a special road provided for the use of traffic of class I (with or without other classes). As put in a recent Government consultation - ‘Prior to 1992, the Department for Transport had responsibility for developing MSAs: acquiring land, funding construction and leasing the completed sites to operating companies. In 1992 there was a change in government policy to encourage the private sector to acquire MSA sites and seek planning consent from local planning authorities to open MSAs. These MSAs are then owned by the private sector. The sale and consumption of alcohol at motorway service areas (MSAs) is prohibited nationally under section 176(2) of the Licensing Act 2003, for MSAs which are still owned by the Government (and are on land bought by the Secretary of State). Department of Transport circular guidance (DfT Circular 01/2008) places requirements on operators of MSAs (including Government and privately owned MSAs) which are reflected in their Traffic Signs Agreements with the Highways Agency. In effect, these requirements have prohibited the sale of alcohol at MSAs. However, we are aware that there has been mixed application of the Department for Transport guidance. In a small number of cases, premises at MSAs possess licences that include authorisation for alcohol sales. The legislation and guidance covers all premises within MSAs including hotels and lodges providing overnight accommodation within the MSA and supermarkets operating within MSAs.”

Propel Background Briefing: At the most recent JD Wetherspoon results meeting, chief executive John Hutson was asked whether serving alcohol at a motorway station was ‘responsible’. He argued that it was no more or less responsible than serving alcohol in a normal pub – it is a matter of personal responsibility. Furthermore, Hutson pointed to the vast number of coach passengers passing through Beaconsfield services, many of whom are obviously not driving anyway. Wetherspoon has run numerous sites at airport and train stations for many years so the move to operate in a high footfall service station would be a natural progression. The opening comes as service station operators, like owners of shopping centres and transport hubs, are looking to broaden their offer - JD Wetherspoon was approached by the service station operator to suggest the opening. The Starbucks at Beaconsfield Extra is already open 24 hours a day and a Greggs outlet became the first open at a motorway service area in 2013. Meanwhile, Moto is trialing a franchised Harvester at Donington Park Services on the M1.

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