Council issues approval for Wines Direct to open Athlone store

Wine lovers will rejoice at the news that Westmeath County Council has cleared the way for well known retailer Wines Direct to enter the Athlone market.

The family owned and operated wine importer, who already run a successful specialist outlet in Lough Sheever Park in Mullingar, had their plans for a second store in the county in Athlone approved on December 23 last.

Earmarked for units 1 and 3, at The Hickey Building, formerly home to DB Cycles along Magaazine Road, the project will involve the amalgamation of both units into one at ground floor level.

A change of use from retail use to retail use with wine as the primary product for sale along with some minor internal works was also given the green light by local authority planners just before Christmas.

“The Mullingar store is very successful and has prompted the need for another store in Athlone,” the submitted planning documents explained in November, arguing that the reuse of a prominent vacant retail unit is important for the “vitality and viability” of Magazine Road.

“Initially, the applicant sought to change the use of a car showroom in Moydrum Business Park into a wine shop, but difficulties arose with the fact that wine is only allowed under the definition of 'shop' where it is an ancillary part of the dominant retail product,” the documents in the name of Wine Makers Athlone trading as Wines Direct added, necessitating the change of use. A new projecting canopy over the entrance door with new pillars to sides and cornice piece to top of existing shopfront frames also formed part of the project.

A separate wine licence will need to be obtained by the applicant, the planning documents also revealed, but the shop will not sell any spirits or beer and will not be an off-licence.

Irish owned Wines Direct source wines that are not available in supermarket chains which they said in the documents supporting the project tend to “promote homogeneity and bulk production”.

In addition to the sale of wines, their stores try to enhance customer experience by providing wine tasting and informal events throughout the year. Wines can be purchased in-store with ancillary food or wine products or online.

The approved planning application is subject to compliance with several conditions laid down by the council, which include that prior to work starting that details of signage and revising lighting be submitted to the council for written approval. Signage will not be internally illuminated or neon lighting, the decision documents revealed, adding that external lighting will only operate when the shop is open and no projecting signage is permitted.

There were no local submissions listed on the planning file, however, Deputy Robert Troy lodged a representation expressing his support for the project. “I believe this application to be fully in line with development guidelines and will be a positive development for the units involved,” the Longford/Westmeath TD said.

Up until the summer, Wines Direct operated a store in Arnotts in Dublin city centre, in addition to its Mullingar outlet, but this closed in August.