OFF or GROCERS
A FEW FACTS relative to the WINE & SPIRIT
Ordered to be printed at the Meeting of the National Chamber of Trade
on February 20th, 1883, and to be sent to Members of Parliament
The ``OFF RETAIL" Spirit Licence was first granted in 1861, on
the recommendation of a Select Committee reporting that the public
were suffering considerable inconvenience from the fact that was was
only one channel from which moderate quantities of Spirits could be
obtained, namely the Public House.
The Commissioners of Inland Revenue, in their report for the year
1870, in referring to the ``OFF RETAIL" Spirit Licence,
state that it was ` demanded for the sake
of public convenience,
had been earnestly advocated by us and our predecessors in office, and
recommended by Committees of both Houses of Parliament. The
result has, we believe, been very beneficial, if in no other way, in
removing constant temptation to the violation of a law opposed alike
to the interests of the revenue, the convenience of the public, and
the natural custom and direction of trade'
OFF RETAIL" Wine Licence was first granted in 1860, on the
completion of the Commercial Treaty with France, the object being to
promote the consumption of Light Wines.
The introduction of these ``OFF RETAIL" Licenses was attended
with a considerable amount of success, they having met a public want,
inasmuch as by them small quantities of Wines & Spirits could conveniently
obtained by the public, at reasonable prices, the trade being free.
innovations, however, naturally gave rise to great trade jealousies,
the Publicans, in addition to the monopoly enjoyed by them in
selling for consumption `On ' the premises, having hitherto possessed
another monopoly in the `Bottle' trade in both Wines & Spirits.
Thus originated the agitation against `Off' or `Grocers' Licenses, and
the circulation of all unsubstantial charges of `secret
drinking' and ` female drinking,' &c., in which the
Temperance party naturally joined, being of course totally opposed to
the Liquor Trade in any and every way.
`Off ' Licenses are only granted to respectable tradesmen - all
applicants for Certificates having to produce evidence before the
Magistrates as to their respectability.
Moreover, the cost of `Off' Licenses - namely nearly £30 per annum
for the privilege of retailing Wines, Spirits and Beer - is in itself
a guarantee that this trade is in the hands of a respectable and
Traders under `Off' Licenses after a time feeling aggrieved at the
persistent manner in which they were assailed by the Publican interest
and the Temperance party, suggested an enquiry as to the method in
which their businesses were conducted.
This led to a Committee of the House Of Lords being appointed to
consider the whole subject in the connection of Intemperance.
In the report of their Lordships ( printed in 1879 ), after an enquiry
extending over two sessions, and after hearing evidence from, and
listening to the opinions of, all classes of society, their Lordships
`As the object of
instituting these licenses was to enable respectable persons to obtain
small quantities of spirits without having to go to public houses, it
might be naturally expected that, out of the whole number of persons
supplying themselves with spirits from grocers' shops, some
individuals would indulge in them to excess; but in all cases where
opportunities are given for obtaining alcoholic liquors those
opportunities are liable to be abused, and the question that the
Committee have had to consider is, not whether some cases of
intemperance may be traced to the purchase of spirits at grocers'
shops, but whether any general increase in intemperance can be
attributed to grocers' licenses.
After examination of many witnesses on the point, and after the best
enquiries they could make, the Committee have obtained very little
direct evidence in support of this view, and the conclusion they have
come to is, that upon the whole there have been no sufficient grounds
shown for specially connecting intemperance with the retail of spirits
at shops as contrasted with their retail at other licensed houses'
evidence has been given that the retail of wine under the
Refreshment-house and Wine Licence Acts has increased intemperance; on
the contrary, it has been urged, with a considerable show of reason,
that the operation of those Acts besides affording much convenience to
the public, has had a beneficial effect in encouraging the use of
light wines instead of stronger beverages.'
to the Inland Revenue Commissioners' Report, dated March, 1882,
the total number of traders in England and Wales selling Spirits by
retail under `Off' Licenses ( Including Grocers ) was only 6,023,
as against 92,493 licenses in the hands of publicans.
Publicans can sell Wines and Spirits for consumption either `on' or
`off' the premises, and in any quantity.
Holders of `Off Retail' Licenses can only sell Wines and Spirits in sealed
bottles, for home consumption, and in quantities of not
less than one reputed quart bottle of Spirits and one reputed pint
bottle of Wine.
The Licenses under which Grocers
trade are precisely the same as those held by Wine and Spirit
Merchants. There are no special Licenses issued to Grocers, indeed the
term Grocers' Licenses is a misnomer.