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England's Chocolate Capital Is Under Attack by Booze

So for the time being, the last outpost of dry England remains secured.
October 3, 2015, 2:00pm
Photo via Flickr user Melissa Wiese

In most parts of England you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a decent pub.

The humble pub is more than just a watering hole, it's a British institution where, statistically, 1 percent of patrons end up in the hospital because of binge drinking, and ten times that amount report blacking out. It's figures like these that paint a picture of England as being a gray and boozy dystopia.

But that is not the case in Bournville, a small village on the southside of Birmingham. At least, it wasn't until this week, when Birmingham city councillors granted a liquor licence to a newsstand on the edge of the village.

READ MORE: Let's Celebrate the Repeal of Prohibition By Getting Wasted

To the horror of many locals, the newsagent who is located just a few feet outside of the Bournville "dry zone," can now sell beer, wine, and spirits. The stand is a little too close for comfort for many of Bournville's citizens despite technically being in neighbouring Birmingham.

Speaking to The Guardian, Rob Sealey, a conservative city councillor for Bournville, described the decision as "catastrophic" and "devastating," warning of the ills of alcohol with Eliot Ness-like intensity.

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"This goes against 120 years of history and heritage in Bournville. There will be a rise in antisocial behaviour in the area now with the selling of alcohol. It is a devastating blow for residents but we will appeal."

For Sealey, the decision is a threat, not only to quality of life, but a tradition which is intimately related to the corporate culture of the Cadbury chocolate empire.

Chocolate production in the town dates back to 1874, when the Cadbury family left Birmingham and turned Bournville into a "model village" to house factory workers. George Cadbury, a Quaker and teetotaler, was adamant about keeping the village he built free of the liquid devil.

But for Kamal Sharma, the newsstand owner who now has a permit sell alcohol, this is a matter of survival. "If it had been turned down I would have seriously looked at closing the business down. I am doing all I can to save my business and selling alcohol may just do that," he told the The Guardian.

As media reports began circulating about the model village no longer being dry, Peter Roach, current Chief Executive of George Cadbury's Bournville Village Trust was quick to clarify the issue in a press release.

"George Cadbury set up Bournville Village Trust in 1900 to develop, manage and maintain the Bournville Estate which he endowed to the BVT. It was indeed his wish that there should be no off-licences or pubs on the Bournville Estate. The fact remains, here in 2015, that there are still no such establishments here on the Estate."

So for the time being, the last outpost of dry England remains secured.