A FOOTSCRAY business owner is receiving wide praise for tearing up his liquor licence in dismay at problem drinking.
Grant Miles, owner of Nicholson Street mall discount grocery outlet Cheaper Buy Miles, stands to lose tens of thousands of dollars over the stand.
Trading in the heart of Footscray for 15 years, he has seen first-hand the growing problem with young people drinking in areas such as Maddern Square and the damage alcohol is doing to the community.
“Anyone can walk in and buy a cheap cask of wine and go around into Maddern Square and drink it,” Mr Miles said.
“I feel like I’m contributing in some way, so it’s pretty hard to take the high moral ground and continue to sell alcohol at the same time.”
Mr Miles said the ongoing problem with alcohol abuse in Footscray wouldn’t allow his conscience to contribute to a problem “destroying the fabric of our community.”
There are six bottle shops in Footscray as well as nine hotels and seven clubs licensed to sell packaged liquor.
There are eight outlets with licences to sell packaged liquor within the alcohol-exclusion zone, bordered by Donald, Moore, Irving and French streets, where public drinking is banned.
A report to council last year noted significant concern from traders and the community about antisocial behaviour in central Footscray linked to public drinking.
‘‘The prevalence of antisocial behaviour within Footscray is regularly cited by traders, visitors and residents as negatively impacting on perceptions of safety,’’ the report found.
Community feedback showed vandalism, urinating in public and littering were issues related to drinking in public in Footscray.
Mr Miles, president of the Footscray Traders Association and a candidate in October’s council elections, sold $80,000 worth of alcohol in the past financial year, about 10 per cent of his revenue.
He hopes his public challenge will spur other businesses to help reduce problem drinking. Steps could include not selling refrigerated alcohol and cutting the number of cheap options available on the shelves.
Maribyrnong area police inspector Tony Long said he was very impressed by a decision that put people before profit.
“Public drinking has been an ongoing problem for us and we’re hopeful this has a flow-on effect,” he said.
Inspector Long said construction work around Footscray station had shifted much of the public drinking into the busier town centre.
The problem hasn’t necessarily been getting worse, he said, but it is now more obvious.
The decision coincides with Operation Reveille, a “two-pronged attack” on Footscray CBD launched yesterday in which police are cracking down on enforcement but also stepping up community engagement.
“We’ll be talking with shoppers and shopkeepers, getting their feedback on the main issues.”