Shell appeal could change face of garage licensing

 ruling by magistrates in Leeds could alter the way licensing committees and other courts measure the suitability of garages for drinks licences.

Shell UK won an appeal for a licence application at one of its sites in the city after magistrates determined that tribunals – magistrates courts and licensing sub-committees – could consider advertising signs and the full range of non-garage products stocked when deciding whether a premises’ primary use was a garage.

Until now, tribunals have tended to use sales and footfall figures to make such decisions. Where these show high petrol sales and numbers of people buying petrol only, licences have tended to be refused.

But in the Leeds case, magistrates took into account signs advertising an ATM and Costa coffee, and photos showing a wide range of non-garage products on sale, in finding that the premises were not primarily used as a garage.

They also ruled that a garage could still be regarded primarily as a shop even if people had to drive to it to use it.

The ruling is not binding but is likely to influence how other tribunals approach such cases in future, potentially making it easier for petrol forecourts to gain licences.

Jonathan Smith, licensing solicitor at Poppleston Allen, said: “Historically, such decisions have largely relied on the figures which have been given by publicans – and on occasions police opposing applications – to both show the income derived from the sale of petrol and repair of cars, where relevant, against the sales from the shop.

“What this case indicates is that tribunals are entitled to take into account a wider range of factors when making their decision.”

Shell won the appeal and Leeds City Council was ordered to pay £19,819.79 in costs.