THE lobby group representing 200 petrol station convenience stores in Tasmania is pushing for the right for its members to sell alcohol, a move opponents say would increase drink-related harm in the community.

The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has urged the state government to do away with what it calls “archaic” alcohol regulations, saying beer, wine and spirit takeaway sales would help the sector recover more quickly from the COVID-19 downturn.

“We’re not saying we want to be able to sell alcohol 24 hours a day. We would sell at the same times as other bottle shops in the areas,” AACS chief executive Jeff Rogut said.

He said the pandemic had changed buying habits, arguing that alcohol sales at higher-end petrol stations that had a food offering would allow people to “grab a bottle of wine on the way to a party”.

“People are looking for smaller, less crowded environments to buy their products,” Mr Rogut said.

Tasmania’s liquor licensing commission has rejected four applications from stores to sell alcohol this year, including a bid by Moonah’s 24-hour Caltex service station to sell locally made wine, beer and spirits from 5am until midnight.

Tasmanian-owned Bennetts Petroleum argued a liquor licence for the Moonah outlet would promote local producers, but the licensing commission concluded the risk of community harm was too high, noting there were already 20 licensed premises in the Glenorchy area.

Bennetts chief executive Troy Bennett said the company would not appeal the Moonah decision, but planned to apply for licences “in areas where it’s better suited”, creating outlets similar to its petrol and gourmet food hub in Launceston, which sells Tasmanian alcohol.

“Alcohol is not a big seller at Mood Food Grand Central, but it supplements the other local products we sell, the cheese, fruit and vegetables and meat,” Mr Bennett said.

The Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council said that while alcohol played an important part in the lives of Tasmanians, it also had a very damaging impact on many.

“We need to be very cautious when considering how alcohol products are sold,” chief executive Alison Lai said.

“We know that selling alcohol in places where young people come and go every day has an impact on their relationship with alcohol. We also know that the number of places that you can buy alcohol has an impact on the level of harm it has in a community.”

Steve Old from the Tasmanian Hospitality Association called AACS’s push “opportunistic” and said there were already too many takeaway alcohol outlets in Tasmania.

Other businesses refused liquor licences in the past 18 months include TCM Market at Lauderdale, Hill St Grocer at Sandy Bay, the Mount Nelson General Store, a proposed new bottle shop at Smithton and Asian grocers in central Hobart and Sandy Bay that wished to sell Asian alcohol.

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