Wembley shops talk of threat to business from alcohol ban

Zaid Appasi, who runs Friends Off-Licence near Wembley Stadium

Zaid Appasi, who runs Friends Off-Licence near Wembley Stadium - Credit: Adam Shaw

Corner shop owners in Wembley say they are at risk of going out of business after new council rules stopped them selling alcohol during football matches. 

Brent Council introduced a ban on local off-licences selling booze on days when large events are being held at Wembley Stadium, in response to the chaotic scenes at last year’s Euro 2020 final.

It said the new rules have been a “success”, with a significant drop in antisocial behaviour and littering in the area. But local businesses said they are being “punished” for something that wasn’t their fault and, if things don’t change, they could be forced to close down. 

Zaid Appasi, who runs Friend’s Off-Licence near Wembley Park Station, said he relies on the income brought in during sports events at the stadium. He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Football is our season, we need it to make money.

“This decision by the council has had a big, big impact on our business. They say they want to help the local economy and then they do this. This is our livelihood. I’ve been here for more than 20 years and, in all that time, there’s never been any trouble, any fighting. 

“If they really want to do something, they could maybe stop us selling alcohol an hour before and an hour after the game. But 24 hours is crazy.”

Deler Gulati, who owns a shop on the other side of the stadium, said the council was using the drunken scenes at the Euros as an “excuse” to make it look like they are taking action. 

He said: “We are the losers in all of this, we are being punished for something that the police and the council didn’t deal with. 

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“This was a total one-off, a once in a century match. It’s ruined everything for us. Who’s going to pay our bills? They speak of a cost of living crisis, we need to make money as well. If I knew this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have extended my lease. I’d have gotten out of here because these new rules are totally unfair.”

Shops in Wembley

Shops in Wembley - Credit: Adam Shaw

Mr Gulati said shops near the stadium must pay a premium to trade in the area due to the increased footfall on match days. He said this is still in place despite the new booze ban. 

He said corner shops face a “double hit” as local customers usually stay away when events are taking place, while fans will often avoid the shop entirely now they cannot buy alcohol. 

Mr Gulati said: “People would come in before and they wouldn’t just buy beer, they’d pick up some sweets or soft drinks. Now we don’t have any of that. It’s affected us in a huge way.” 

Amir Khan, from Wembley Park Express, said he too has noticed a clear drop in sales after the new rules were put in place.  He said he expects to be okay as alcohol sales don’t dominate his income like they do for other shops, but he still disagrees with the council’s decision. 

Mr Khan said: “You can see a clear difference. We have to pay extra business rates and now we’ve lost one of the main reasons for being here. I know that some of the smaller shops in Wembley will have to close down eventually. They cannot cope without being able to sell alcohol.”

The shop owner added he sometimes has to deal with fans being aggressive when they find out they can’t buy booze from his shop. 

He said: “They might have been drinking on the train or in the pubs and they want to buy more beer. When you tell them they can’t, it can be an unpleasant experience.”

England fans and police outside the ground after the UEFA Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, July 11, 2021

England fans and police outside the ground after the UEFA Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, July 11, 2021 - Credit: Zac Goodwin/PA

In the run up to this year’s Carabao Cup Final, the first match where the new rules came into effect, the council told off-licences close to the stadium it is their responsibility not to sell alcohol to potential street drinkers. It also urged shops not to get in more stock before match days. 

It said: “Whilst we understand that alcohol sales on event days may be valuable trade for off-licences, Brent Council must balance these considerations with that of the safety of residents and visitors to the local area.”

The ban was in place for Sunday’s Women’s Euros Final between England and Germany, when businesses could be fined up to £1,000 if they were caught selling alcohol to fans.

Cllr Mili Patel, deputy leader of Brent Council, said: "The council does not set business rates. Our street drinking ban around Wembley Stadium tackles alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour, which we know local businesses hate as much as we do. Many lost out on business when they had to close for safety reasons on the day of the EURO men's final precisely because of dangerous drunken behaviour.

“Since we strengthened our enforcement approach, we've seen fewer arrests and a 70 per cent drop in litter, creating a safer, more family-friendly atmosphere for everyone around Stadium events. We're really grateful to local businesses for their support with the ban, and most are supportive of the changes.

“Wembley Park is a busy and thriving neighbourhood even when there aren’t events at the Stadium, with attractions like the OVO Arena and the London Designer Outlet drawing thousands of visitors each year to the area. There are plenty of opportunities for businesses to make the most of the high footfall around events and at other times."