A GARAGE in Yate has been licensed to sell alcohol 24 hours a day despite concerns that it may become a gathering place for drinkers.

Yate Bridge Service Station, on Station Road, one of 200 Esso forecourts bought by Rontec and earmarked for major remodelling, will now sell beer, wine and spirits to customers at all times of the day and night after South Gloucestershire Council approved a variation of its licence.

The application was sent to a licensing panel hearing on Tuesday (August 19) after a complaint was lodged by Yate and district councillor Sue Walker.

She told the Gazette: “I don’t feel we need somewhere that sells alcohol all night and I am concerned it will encourage groups of young people to come in and try and get alcohol underage.

“This is a nice area and we want to keep it that way.”

Cllr Walker, who lives nearby and is a member of the Friends of Yate Train Station, said there were already late night problems with vandalism and large groups gathering at the station.

“The site is only yards from the premises,” she said. “Extending its licence will increase the role of alcohol at the station car park and thereby increase vandalism and associated public order issues."

The panel heard how the Railway Inn pub opposite the garage, which has given the council’s licensing department cause for concern in the past, closes at the same time (11pm) the garage is currently able to sell alcohol until.

Panel chairman Cllr Shirley Potts (Lab, Staple Hill) said: “I am concerned about problems on the forecourt.

“The pub closes more or less at the same time as the premises and I know there is no evidence that this has led to any trouble but we need to do our best to limit any problems. We all have experience of people coming out pubs and causing problems.

“I am also concerned that there will only be one member of staff present during those extra hours. If you have a dramatic frame of mind you can imagine things happenings.”

Cllr Howard Gawler (Lib Dem, Ladden Brook) said: “There is quite a large area round the forecourt for people to park up and consume alcohol.”

But solicitor Robert Botkai, on behalf of Rontec, said the firm had no experience of people drinking on the premises and would not tolerate their garage being used as a meeting point for drinkers.

He told the panel: “We sell alcohol up to 11pm now and people don’t drink on the premises and there is no evidence they will after 11pm.

“There are people who work different shifts and shop during the night, it doesn’t mean they consume it then and there.”

He added: “The objection tries to forecast what might happen in the future but there is no evidence of any problems at this store and importantly, the police have not objected.”

The panel agreed to extend the garage licence to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, seven days a week including through a night time pay point from 10pm until 5.30am.

Mr Botkai said Rontec is planning a renovation of the garage which will include an internal refit and new Costa Coffee counter.