A solicitor for Dobbies garden centre has told a licensing application hearing that the retailer "is just like a supermarket" after its new garden centre in Aberdeen was refused an off-sales drinks licence to "protect children from harm".
Licensing board members rejected yesterday the application despite Dobbies' solicitor saying all but one of its 18 Scottish garden centres were allowed to sell alcohol.
Stephen McGowan, from Tods Murray Solicitors, said: "The off-sales facility is a very key part of the operation.
"Dobbies is run by Tesco and although it's a garden centre, it's fundamentally just like a supermarket.
"If you were to take the view that Dobbies shouldn't have an off-sales licence then you would have to take that view for any supermarket."
Board members granted Dobbies a licence, but not for off-sales. Board member Marie Boulton said: "I'm concerned. Part of our policy is protecting children from harm and it's the constant visibility - even in garden centres.
"When you are trying to promote a different culture it doesn't sit comfortably with me that now garden centres have it."
GCA chief executive Gillie Westwood said obtaining licences to sell alcohol depended on local authorities and can be difficult. She added that though some garden centres sell alcohol in farm shops, alcohol sales in garden centres are not particularly common. She said the comparison of Dobbies to a supermarket was "an interesting comment".
Food consultant Chris Brown of Turpin Smale said having a licence to sell alcohol was "not a key thing" for garden centres.