Coles is pushing for its Bussell Highway Liquorland outlet to open in Margaret River from 8am on six of its seven trading days despite its own survey shows nearly 70 per cent of residents are against the store.
According to a liquor licence application that closes to public submissions today, it was “negative publicity” focused on looming Coles and Woolworths liquor licences for the town centre that skewed the chain’s own survey results, which therefore should be given “little weight”.
The applicants said awareness about the proposed liquor store – which would see Bob’s Shoe Store and Just Jeans ousted from their main street sites – had jumped massively since the Times reported the pending application earlier this year.
The proponent hired companies to run surveys in April and May, with only 7 per cent of those surveyed instore aware of the Liquorland proposal when first approached.
The awareness level grew to 79 per cent when a telephone survey was conducted after the Times report. While 35 per cent of people did not support the outlet when asked instore, 68.2 per cent said they did not support a new Liquorland when asked in the phone survey.
Of those who said they bought takeaway liquor in Margaret River, a slightly higher percentage (69.5 per cent) said they did not support a new outlet.
The application said the results of the phone survey shouldn’t be considered by the director of liquor licensing because it could not be ascertained what information residents were using once the Times article hit the streets.
However, Coles said the in-store “intercept” survey showed “strong support” at 57.9 per cent and slightly higher for those who regularly purchased takeaway liquor.
“Both surveys were conducted without incident, although it was only through the intercept survey that the current tenants of the premises … heard about the proposal,” the report accompanying the application said.
“This information and the manner in which the tenants heard about the proposal led to substantial negative publicity, including at least one prominent article in the local press.
"While this may have had some effect upon the intercept survey, it clearly had a major impact on the subsequent telephone survey, affecting how the results of the telephone survey should properly be interpreted.”
The Margaret River Chamber of Commerce will also oppose the liquor store in a written submission following a survey of members.
Settlers Holdings spokeswomanRachel House said the proposed outlet would be worse for the community than the new Woolworths.
Settlers and other independent liquor retailers in the shire have engaged lawyers during the public submissions process, with residents and businesses urged to write their objections to the director of liquor licensing.
An independent survey of residents would also be lodged during the process.
In a letter to the Times, Margaret River Hotel manager Steve Hughes said the proposed outlet directly across from the existing drive-through threatened the iconic 82-year-old business and bottleshop trade in particular.
Mr Hughes said the prominent location of the hotel in town also meant it needed protection.
The change from shop to liquor store was approved by the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River in August.