Traders have warned that limiting the number of off-sales outlets in parts of Fife in a bid to tackle alcohol-related harm would hamper investment.
Councillors will decide on Monday whether to adopt a presumption against new off-sales licences being granted in Kirkcaldy, Cowdenbeath and Leven areas.
Fife Council believes there are already too many shops selling booze in these areas and that restricting availability would reduce alcohol-induced problems and crime.
The proposed new policy was drafted following the revelation earlier this year that dealing with alcohol-related harm costs Fife an estimated £131 million each year.
However, licensed traders have questioned the link made between availability and harm and told the local authority that making licences harder to get would discourage investment in existing and new premises.
In his response to the council’s consultation, Luke McGarty of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation said the federation was not convinced evidence of a link between alcohol availability and alcohol-related harm was “either robust or conclusive enough”.
He said: “Creating a general presumption in a particular locality that no increase in alcohol capacity would be approved would almost certainly mean that existing retailers would not invest in modernising and refitting stores.
“This in turn may put off new or established operators from taking over existing premises and delivering the investment that may drive up standards across the area.”
He also said the overprovision approach was a “blunt instrument and does little to reduce alcohol-related harm” and added: “Inequality continues to be the main determining factor. Alcohol-related harm is still disproportionately experienced by those from more deprived areas.”
His stance was echoed by David Sands, chairman of David’s Kitchen which has two shops in Glenrothes and intends to expand.
Mr Sands said: “Modern local convenience stores are community assets, from providing busy families with a top-up facility on the one hand, to allowing customers, particularly the elderly, with an alternative to larger out-of-town supermarkets.
“David’s Kitchen would not invest in a store that did not have an off sales licence.”
Fife Licensing Board will be asked to agree its licensing policy for the next five years on Monday.
NHS Fife said controlling availability or harm was recognised as one of the few effective ways of reducing harm associated with it.
Director of public health Dr Margaret Hannah said: “We are fully supportive of the licensing board’s position on overprovision.
“We are working closely with partner agencies to achieve a reduction in alcohol-related harm across Fife and consider the new overprovision statement and a redrafted version of the statement of licensing policy as an important contribution to this.”