Harehills is a ‘holiday resort’ for street drinkers, police say

Harehills has become a “holiday resort” for street drinkers, police have claimed.

By David Spereall, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 11:45 am

Anti-social daytime drinkers are flocking to the east Leeds suburb from as far as away as Morley, a licensing hearing was told.

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The claims were made amid widespread opposition to the prospect of a new off-licence, which would be known as Mleczko, setting up shop in the old Yorkshire Bank branch on Harehills Lane

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Anti-social daytime drinkers are flocking to the east Leeds suburb from as far as away as Morley, a licensing hearing was told. Credit: Tony Johnson

Karpaty Foods, which is behind the venture, has applied to Leeds City Council for an alcohol licence, saying the shop cannot run efficiently without one.

But police, public health officials, local councillors and members of the public have all objected to the plans, saying it would make high levels of crime and disorder in the area even worse.

Harehills itself is part of Leeds’ cumulative impact zone, which makes it harder for new traders to get an alcohol licence.

The applicants promised to operate under 'the most stringent licensed conditions ever proposed in Leeds', if granted permission.

They also pledged to sell alcohol only to customers who spend at least £5 on other items.

The shop’s representative, Nick Semper, said this would 'design out' any chances of street drinkers using the store.

Mr Semper said: “It is simply not realistic to anticipate multitudes more of misbehaving alcohol-dependent people will head down to this area, upon hearing that Mleczko has now been granted a premises licence to sell alcohol, but only contingent on a minimum sale of £5 worth of groceries.

“That is speculative, unfeasible and illogical.”

The applicants said they intend to sell Polish and Romanian products to serve families in Harehills’ Eastern European community, adding that there is only one other such store in the area.

Mr Semper said the £5 minimum spend rule had been successfully imposed in other places, including in Wakefield, where a new city centre store was recently granted a licence despite similar objections around street drinking.

But PC James Croft, from West Yorkshire Police, said Harehills was different to Wakefield city centre, because it has more than three times the number of licensed stores.

He said: “We’ve overlooked the fact that we’ve inadvertently created a bit of a holiday resort for these people.

“They can get barred from or kicked out of five or six convenience stores and they know there’s about another 10 they can go to, where they’ve built up a relationship with the shopkeepers.”

PC Croft added: “Just the simple presence of a large group of drunk males and females can be very intimidating.

“The people who work round there and the genuine businesses are absolutely sick to death of it.

“They feel we and the council aren’t doing enough to help them. I feel the sight of another premises opening and selling alcohol is not going to help our case.”

Ward councillor Salma Arif also strongly objected to the application.

She read out a letter from a mum-of-three, who claimed street drinkers had used her back garden as a toilet on five separate occasions, since she moved to Harehills in December 2021.

Coun Arif herself added: “I can’t explain or articulate how upsetting it will be if another licensed premises opens in the area.

“People are really up against it at the moment and they’re fed up with the problems. This will be awful and it really won’t be family friendly.”

All parties were told that the council would inform them of their decision on the licence within five working days.