The licensing officer reported that there had been a site visit by the licensing team on the 27 September 2018 and there had been some improvements. A refusals record was now being kept, efforts had been made to keep invoices in an orderly fashion and the CCTV seemed to be in operation although this could not be operated by the member of staff present.
In response to questions the trading standards officer stated that no invoices had been produced for the illicit alcohol and only some invoices over the past two months had been produced. There did not appear to be the amount of invoices available for the amount of stock on the premises.
The trading standards officer referred to her report and stated that condition 5 of the licence required that stock should be easily traceable. The illicit alcohol on the shelves could not be easily traced. There was a large quantity of polish alcohol on the premises that was not intended for sale in the UK.
In response to questions, the trading standards officer reported that in 2015, illegal alcohol was seized from the premises and conditions were added to the licence by an officer panel. It was also stated that officer seized alcohol on the 7 June 2018 and, only one week later, on the 15 June, another large quantity of alcohol not intended for the UK market was seized. At the first visit on the 7 June, it was made clear that the sale of this alcohol was a breach of condition and a visit report was also left to explain why the alcohol could not be sold.
The licensing authority highlighted the report on pages 79-81 of the agenda and stated that, although there had been some improvement, it had taken some time to get to this point. Alcohol sold should not be above 6.5 abv and the Chair considered that condition 14 of the current licence be reworded to avoid confusion.
The police stated that they supported the review submitted. They had other matters of concern in relation to the premises which were not licensing matters but were outlined in the papers.
The licensee’s representative stated that this was a very small shop and a very busy family business. Insufficient care and attention had been paid to the conditions on the licence and illicit alcohol had been sold on the premises. There had now been significant progress made in addressing these issues. New CCTV had been installed, the refusals book was now up to date, the Challenge 25 notices were on display. The licensee had brought all invoices to the Sub-Committee. They were being put into categories. He needed to undertake a stock take and was currently working on till prompts. This improvement had happened and a short suspension should not be a punishment. He agreed that condition 14 could be reworded and he considered that there should be an acknowledgement of improvements made and that a suspension was not necessary.
In response to questions it was noted that the licensee was gathering receipts so that they would be complete from now on. It was accepted that there had been a historic lack of care. It was noted that there were four staff on the premises. It was noted that receipts were now more organised, staff had received mandatory training and were still to receive training in the CCTV system and would need to be able to retrieve invoices. It would take about one more week to teach staff the items outstanding. The licensee stated that he had always bought alcohol from a cash and carry. The polish beer had been purchased five years ago from another shop and had been in the basement. When asked why illicit alcohol was still on the shelves after the 7th June the licensee said that the cash and carry had said the alcohol would be fine to sell. The licensee stated that he would be able to show all the invoices for the past two months.
In summary, the trading standards officer stated that no invoices had been produced for the brands listed in the report. Some of those brands would have had English writing on but some not. The licensing authority and the police stated they had nothing further to add. The licensee’s representative stated that there had been significant progress and there had been a consistent application of the conditions of the licence over the past few weeks. He accepted that there had been non-compliance in the past. He agreed that there be an amendment to condition 14. The focus was now on the future of the business. He considered that a period of suspension was not an appropriate solution and was unnecessary in the circumstances.
That the premises licence, in respect of AJ News, 127 Whitecross Street, EC1Y 8PU be suspended for a period of six weeks and modified as follows:-
· Condition 14 be amended to read:-
No high strength beer, lager or cider of 6.5% abv or above shall be sold.
REASONS FOR DECISION
This was an application to review the licence in question. The review was brought by Trading Standards.
The Sub-Committee listened to all the evidence and submissions and read all the material. The Sub-Committee reached the decision having given consideration to the Licensing Act 2003, as amended, and its regulations, the national guidance and the Council’s Licensing Policy.
Verbal representations were received by Trading Standards, the Licensing Authority, the Police and the Respondent’s representative.
The Sub-Committee heard evidence that there had been two recent occasions, on 7th June 2018 and 15th June 2018, Trading Standards Officers seized quantities of cans of alcohol that were not permitted to be sold in the UK. The licensee ignored the warning given by the Trading Standards Officer on 7th June and continued to display illegal alcohol for sale.
The licensee had not managed to have his documentation/invoices in order and this was still the case on 27th September 2018, the date of the hearing, when the premises were visited for a third time by Trading Standards Officers. There were however some improvements in the management of the premises since the last visit on 15th June 2018.
The Sub-Committee did not believe the version supplied by the licensee that he purchased the illicit alcohol from Bestway Cash and Carry.
The Sub-Committee had serious concerns about the management of the premises and the ability of the licensee to comply with the licence conditions. The Sub Committee was concerned that despite the licensee having had a considerable period of time to make the necessary improvements, breaches were still occurring and it had little confidence that there would not be further breaches.
The Sub-Committee further noted that none of the Responsible Authorities asked for revocation of the licence.
Taking all the above factors into account the Sub-Committee decided to suspend the licence for 6 weeks. This period to be utilised by the licensee to properly train his staff and to ensure that all his invoices and sale records were in order.
The Sub-Committee concluded that a suspension of 6 weeks was proportionate and reasonable given the facts of this matter.