Chain stores will get Busselton liquor outlets.

The Liquor Commission has rejected an appeal by Busselton licensees to stop two new liquor stores opening in the area, saying they were only objecting to protect their commercial interests.

Progressive Trading (IGA) and Woolworths were given green lights to open bottle shops in Kent Street after the commission ruled yesterday that the stores were in the public interest.

It comes after a two-year legal battle for the licensees of Albies Bar & Bistro, Vasse Cafe Bar, Busselton Liquor Store and the Esplanade Hotel after IGA lodged its plans in December 2011 and Woolworths in February 2012.

The licensees claimed the stores would "saturate" the area with packaged liquor outlets.

Busselton has five liquor stores and drive-throughs, though it is 13 years since the last liquor store licence was granted in the town, despite significant growth.

In its decision, the commission accused the licensees of using the appeals process to protect their businesses.

"Ultimately, the commission is of the opinion that the objections are nothing more than a collection of bald assertions in response to evidence adduced by each applicant, unsubstantiated claims and irrelevant materials that are made in support of each ground of objection," it said.

"This conclusion in combination with the fact that we are satisfied that the objections were made to protect the commercial interest of each entity that made the objection is such that the commission is not satisfied as to the validity of the grounds of objection."

At a hearing in August last year, the objectors said they had been denied procedural fairness and put forward an application that the three presiding commissioners had conflicts of interests or bias and should not hear the case.

They also asked for the hearing to be adjourned because their lawyer was in South Australia on an unrelated "urgent matter".

"The manner in which this matter has been conducted by the solicitors for the objectors and counsel engaged to appear has fallen short of an acceptable standard," the commission wrote.

The commission rejected the implication its decision makers "might not bring an impartial and unprejudiced mind" to the case.

Submissions were also made on behalf on the Commissioner of Police, who suggested the Woolworths application might lead to an increase of alcohol-related harm in the Busselton area. The commission also dismissed that claim.

The West Australian

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