Do we need to shop around the clock? Readers split 50/50 on Asda 24-hour booze sales plan at South Shields supermarket
Asda's plan to sell alcohol 24 hours a day at its South Shields store have seen Gazette readers split straight down the middle.
The news sparked a wide debate with more than 600 people taking part in a poll on our website - which saw voters split straight down the middle with 50% in favour of the 24-hour licence and 50% against.
It also attracted scores of comments on our Facebook page, with many in support of the move - and others concerned about people's alcohol intake, the impact on the South Shields pub and club scene, and whether or not we need 24-hour shopping of any sort at all.
Among those supporting the application was Sarah Knowles. She said: "I often do my Xmas shopping late at night as it’s quieter and it’s annoying if you can’t get everything you need including booze. Don’t assume that people buying it 24hrs will be drinking it straight away."
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Stephen Sullivan was among those fearing for the pub trade. He said: "The cheap alcohol has an impact on the local nightlife. I run one of the bars locally and people come out later and later, usually after they've consumed their cheap alcohol from the supermarkets!
"I think Asda having a 24-hour license would be detrimental to the pubs, bars and clubs in South Shields."
The debate widened to 24-hour shopping of all kinds, with some arguing people with young children and those who worked unsocial hours being just some of the groups of people who needed round-the-clock access to food shopping, medical products and other items.
Others disputed this, including 64-year-old former Asda worker Agnes who said: "Us oldies out there had it sooo good! No doctor Google, no mobile phones, no 24-hour shops, no Just Eat.
"Just good old common sense and forward planning. Oh and shank's pony to walk to A&E if needed with babies in a pram! The End!"
At present Asda stops booze sales at 11pm until 6am the next morning. The new licence would allow it to sell alcohol from its usual opening time on Monday at 6am right through until Saturday closing at 10pm, and then from 10am to 4pm on Sunday as usual.
Asda said it only intends to use the 24-hour licence during the busy Christmas period, but South Tyneside Council said no such limit was included in its licensing application.
Comments on the alcohol licence application can be submitted to the council until Wednesday, November 14.
A spokesman for Leeds-based Asda said in an earlier statement: “This is a seasonal trading application only and as far as I know only extends over Christmas.
“It is a small extension around the Christmas time, and gives flexibility around seasonal hours.
“This is something that we do every year, it just means that stores have the availability to extend.”
Alcohol campaign group Balance is among those to have expressed concerns about the application.
Its director, Colin Shevills, said: “Anything that increases the availability of alcohol is likely to increase the harms that it can cause.
“The widespread availability of cheap alcohol means that the North East already has the highest alcohol-related hospital admission rate in England and initiatives like this only make things worse.
“What we ought to be doing is reducing the number of places selling alcohol and the hours of sale, but the current Licensing Act makes this very difficult.
“We would like to see a review of the Licensing Act in order to place more power in the hands of local communities and councils rather than being at the mercy of the commercial priorities of alcohol retailers.”