A flier mailed to East Valley homes by a local union — suggesting that the new chain of planned Tesco stores sells beer to children — has unsettled some residents.
The flier depicts a picture of a juice box with “BEER” and “100 percent BEER” written on its labels, and states “Coming soon to our neighborhood,” and a British flag.
Some residents have written outraged e-mails to Gilbert’s Town Council and Mayor Steve Berman, insisting they will never shop at a store that sells alcohol to youth.
Town officials say the issue has to do with a union taking shots at the non-union store, and that they don’t expect Tesco’s Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Markets to sell beer or alcohol to children. Vice Mayor Steve Urie said the fliers refer to an undercover sting of alcohol sales to minors at Tesco and other stores in the United Kingdom.
Greg Tilque, director of economic development for the town, said five Tesco stores are planned in Gilbert and will offer a new shopping concept to residents.
The British grocery stores feature fresh produce, specialty foods and household items. “I don’t know if (the sting in the United Kingdom) is an issue of concern,” he said. “But obviously we check it out before they get a liquor license.”
Tesco has 20 inactive liquor license applications and nine pending applications filed with the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. That agency has received numerous e-mail and calls from people both in support and opposition to liquor licenses for Tesco, spokeswoman Lee Hill said.
Bob Grossfeld, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which mailed the fliers to homes near where Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets are planned, said the goal is to educate the public on a company they call the “European WalMart.”
He said the fact that Tesco has begun its plans by seeking out liquor licenses makes him wary about their goal as a “corporate neighbor” in family communities.
Tesco has also raised ire with the union by ignoring calls and refusing to discuss labor issues, he said.
“It’s really more a matter of their corporate culture, and what appears to be their laissez-faire attitude about this sort of thing being imported,” he said. “It’s just fascinating that here you have literally the WalMart of Europe making its first calculated move into the U.S., and what’s the first thing we know about them? The first thing they do publicly is snap up all these liquor licenses.”
Tesco’s United States offices released a statement in response to fliers, stating that the incident in the UK is not comparable to the United States because “there is no legal requirement in the United Kingdom requiring citizens to carry or present identification for the purchase of alcohol,” and that “although these isolated incidents were unfortunate, legal requirements that identification be carried and presented for alcohol sales in the United States will add a higher degree of assurance that similar instances here would be unlikely.”
The statement adds, “Our company is focused on being a good neighbor wherever we operate. We take our responsibilities to each neighborhood very seriously, and this includes controlling and regulating the sale of alcohol. Our stores in Arizona will only sell beer and wine, and we will have systems and training in place to ensure that these products are only sold to those of lawful age.”