Nurses working at St James’ Hospital in Leeds are being intimidated by large groups of drunks as they walk through Harehills, a hearing has been told.
Local councillor Salma Arif told how “women and elderly people feel unsafe” in the area, as she objected to a local shop’s application for an alcohol licence.
Eri Red Sea, on Roundhay Road, has asked Leeds City Council for permission to sell booze for more than 11 hours a day, with the local authority due to announce its decision next week.
The convenience store falls in Harehills’ cumulative impact zone, which seeks to limit the availability of cheap alcohol in the area in response to social problems. Any new applicants have to demonstrate they won’t contribute to those issues.
Outlining her objection to the application, Councillor Arif said: “St James’ Hospital has a large workforce that passes through Harehills on their way to work – many of them women.
“I’ve had nurses approach me as a ward councillor to say they feel intimidated walking through Harehills during the darker nights because of the larger gatherings of males.”
Councillor Arif said she herself had recently felt intimidated by a group of drunks after coming out of a local shop at about 8pm.
She told the hearing: “That’s the culture that’s been created in Harehills. There’s so many off licences to the point where women and elderly people tell me they don’t feel safe.
“Every time I see a new application it feels like a punch in the gut.”
West Yorkshire Police had also objected to the application, with PC Andy Clifford telling the hearing Harehills already has 29 off licences. He said street drinking had caused a “general bad atmosphere” in the suburb, with swearing and fighting regular occurences.
But the shop owner, Samson Ukubamicael, said he needed to sell alcohol as an extra stream of revenue, amid rising costs for his business.
“I can’t increase the price of milk and bread too much, because I want to keep it affordable for everyone,” he told the hearing.
His solicitor, James Rankin, told the panel of three councillors that Mr Ukubamicael had run the shop for three years.
He said: “Alcohol would be a small part of the offer, but an important part. He’s got business rates to pay and his heating and electricity bills have all increased. He needs to find an additional means of providing an income stream.”
Mr Rankin also suggested that rejecting the application would have “no effect” on street drinking in the area, which he claimed was less of a problem around the shop, compared with Harehills Road and Harehills Lane.
That argument was disputed by the authorities present at the hearing.
As proceedings concluded, the chair of the council’s licensing sub-committee, Councillor James Gibson, said a decision would be given in writing to all parties within the next five working days.