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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

The UK's two largest wine retailers - Tesco and Sainsbury's - have made applications under the new licensing law to sell alcohol around the clock. A spokesman for Sainsbury's - the UK's second-largest wine retailer and third-largest grocer - told Harpers that it had applied for round-the-clock licences for all of our 721 stores, although only eight stores actually stay open all night. This is so that if we want to extend opening hours, not necessarily to all night but just by a couple of hours, there will already be a licence in place and there won't be the need to reapply for each and every one.' Tesco, in contrast, is apparently applying for extended licences for a number of its open-all-hours stores. In a statement, the supermarket said: We fully support the aims of the 2003 Licensing Act in giving our customers the freedom to buy alcohol as part of their weekly shop - which many want to do through the night.' Alcohol Concern came out strongly against the supermarkets' decisions. In general, we believe that an increase in the availability of alcohol leads to an increase in the drinking of alcohol, which means that problem drinking will also rise.' In particular, offering alcohol through the night is a big responsibility. People will be coming to these stores after the pubs and bars shut looking for more alcohol. The supermarkets will have to be very careful about not selling to under-age customers or selling to someone who is already drunk - which is illegal. This may well put the staff at the cash tills in a position that they are not trained or prepared for - such as refusing to sell to someone who has been drinking.' Both supermarkets responded that their staff already undergo training.