'Try before you buy' operation is refused by council bosses

Portland Wine Warehouse in Billinge
Portland Wine Warehouse in Billinge

A popular wine store is under scrutiny from the local authority after being refused permission to run its own wine-tasting scheme.

Portland Wine Warehouse, in Billinge, was refused a certificate of lawfulness from St Helens Council relating to its existing use as a shop with ancillary wine-tasting machines.

The off-licence has a reputation across the area for its huge range of wines and other alcoholic drinks and even draws in an impressive clientele, including professional rugby players.

A St Helens Council spokesman said: "An application for a certificate of lawfulness was recently refused by the council because the application did not demonstrate that the sampling use was ancillary to the use of the premises as a retail shop.

"The use of the sampling area is an ongoing matter which is still be being looked into by the planning department."

The shop has become well-known for its 'try before you buy' offering, which is regarded as a popular feature for the store's visitors.

Portland Wine Warehouse underwent extensive refurbishment as recently as March to accommodate the purpose-built 'wine-tasting rooms'.

One customer wrote online: "Fab place with a huge choice of gins. I will definitely be going back soon. Try before you buy a great idea too."

An application for the certificate of lawfulness was submitted in May and refused at the end of last month, meaning that the store is now operating without the desired documentation.

Its sampling section, although popular with customers, has come under criticism from Billinge Parish Council, which sent a written objection to St Helens Council.

The council wrote: "The interior looks like a wine bar and the photos on the Facebook page support this view.

"The change to charging for wine-tasting also supports the view that this is no longer merely a retail shop.

"Residents are very concerned about the further development of the 'consumption' side of the business and the likely impact in terms of noise and disturbance."

The application also faced objections from residents with one protester saying that local residents "do not feel the same" as the customers.

The store refused to comment.