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Hearing for 7-Eleven to sell liquor near Western University postponed amid conflict of interest

Londoners including MPP Terence Kernaghan, Western University professor David Heap, and London and District Labour Council vice-president Jeff Robinson, are opposed to the idea of a 7-Eleven on Western Road selling alcohol. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

The hearing for a proposed liquor licence at a convenience store near Western University in London, Ont., has been postponed after concerns were raised about a potential conflict of interest involving the tribunal chairperson.

Read more: London, Ont. labour group and politicians against 7-Eleven selling alcohol near Western campus

A Licence Appeals Tribunal (LAT) hearing was scheduled on Friday to discuss a liquor licence application for a 7-Eleven located at 1181 Western Road. In disclosing preliminary matters, objectors raised concerns after finding out that Geoffrey Pollock, the decided LAT chairperson for the hearing, also sits on Western University’s board of governors.

“Normally we would have had maybe 15 minutes or half an hour of preliminary matters. We ended up sitting for like five hours,” said David Heap, one of the objectors and a professor at Western University. “That was largely because none of us knew in advance who the decider was going to be.”

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Heap plans to propose a motion to have Pollock, who also stands as the vice-chair of the LAT, recuse himself from the hearing based on his position with the university’s board.

“Nobody was prepared with positions on this,” he continued. “I have until Aug. 29 now to submit a brief motion about why I believe this person should not be the decider [and] that there’s a conflict of interest or an apparent conflict of interest.”

He said the hearing is expected to be rescheduled for the fall and winter months once a decision is made on the proposed motion.

Read more: 7-Eleven’s Ontario in-store alcohol plans are a new take on old model, restaurant group says

“A member of the board of an institution like Western shouldn’t be the decider of an application on a matter like this,” Heap said. “I wasn’t planning to hear so much of my voice on Friday. I wanted to hear from our witnesses.

“There are community members, local residents, business people, colleagues from campus, [and] there’s other people from the community who have concerns about this application,” he added.

Global News has reached out to Pollock for comment but has yet to receive a response.

Last week, Londoners, including local politicians, stated that they would be fighting against the 7-Eleven’s application to sell liquor at a local convenience store due to the location’s proximity to Western University, saying it could make it easier for underaged university students to buy alcohol.

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“That’s the core of why we think this application needs to be opposed … because of the dangers of underage drinking and because of the already known problems with sexual and gender-based violence at Western,” Heap said. “Alcohol doesn’t help the situation.”

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