By Ed Chadwick

The NFRN says it will seek legal advice about whether local authorities are acting within the remit of their licensing powers by seeking to impose voluntary “booze bans” on members.

Retailers in Portsmouth say they are the latest to face increased pressure from the city council as it seeks to persuade independents to remove products above 6.5% ABV from their shelves.

NFRN public affairs manager Adrian Roper told the federation’s national council that talks would be held with lawyers to determine whether councils legally had power to suggest that retailers should delist stock.

It comes in the same week that a group of trade bodies including the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) wrote a joint letter to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) asking for guidance on behalf of members.

“We are looking at whether they are stretching the legislation on licensing beyond what parliament intended,” said Mr Roper.

“If our members are being unfairly treated, we will look at all options up to and including legal action”“It seems to go beyond their licensing remit and we will be taking legal advice.”

Chief executive Paul Baxter, meanwhile, told delegates: “If our members are being unfairly treated, we will look at all options up to and including legal action.”

The Portsmouth scheme is officially voluntary, but members yet to sign up say they have faced increased visits from officials asking to see licensing paperwork.

The initiative is based on a scheme in Ipswich and other councils to follow suit include Brighton, Wycombe and Birmingham.

The letter to the OFT was jointly signed by the ACS along with the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, the British Beer & Pub Association and the National Association of Cider Makers.

It calls for “clear, unequivocal and specific advice” to pass on to businesses.

Shane Brennan, ACS public affairs director, said: “We have had members all over the UK calling us but we have been unable to answer them as there are still many legal grey areas.”

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