Sunderland shop loses alcohol licence for selling blue WKD to child after being confused by her height
An off-licence that sold a bottle of blue WKD to a child has had its licence taken away.
Courtney Drive Newsagents, in Silksworth, was stripped of its licence to sell alcohol at a council hearing on Wednesday, January 15.
Last year, police received intelligence that booze was being sold to teenagers at the store.
On September 30, as part of a joint operation between Northumbria Police and the council’s Trading Standards team, a test purchase took place at the shop.
Premises licence holder, Jinni Nirappel Varkey, admitted selling alcohol to a 15-year-old volunteer without asking for identification.
As a result, the shop’s licence was called before the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee for review.
Mr Varkey already has licences for other city premises at Silksworth Terrace and Phoenix House, Unit 6 on Union Street, although the businesses are believed to be closed.
At Courtney Drive, council bosses said Mr Varkey should not have been selling alcohol after he informed officers that the designated premises supervisor no longer worked there.
Other issues included lack of records of refused sales for age restricted products, such as alcohol and cigarettes.
When Trading Standards officers made a follow up visit in October, the meeting heard, the refusals register was still not being used.
In his defence at the Sunderland Civic Centre hearing, Mr Varkey said he wasn’t offered a “second chance” in the form of a second test purchase.
The licence holder cited the height of the volunteer as a reason for the alcohol sale and disputed claims he did not understand licensing law.
And he also claimed police failed to visit following incidents of young people stealing alcohol from the shop.
Neighbourhood sergeant, Keith Goldsmith, told the meeting it was normal practice to send a ‘retail crime pack’ to stores to gather more detail on crime reports.
While Mr Varkey received forms via email following the theft reports, he admitted he did not return them to the police.
He also told the hearing he was looking to sell the Courtney Drive shop, which is currently closed.
Principal Trading Standards officer, Laura Brooks, summing up, said evidence of the case showed Mr Varkey “didn’t seem to be taking his responsibilities under the licensing act very seriously.”
“The premises licence holder himself has been the person to sell the alcohol to a child,” she said.
“It’s not a case where it’s an employee who sold the alcohol who may or may not have disregarded instructions they were given, it’s not a training issue.
“We have the licence holder who, more than anybody else, should understand what his obligations are under the law when it comes to the sale of alcohol.”
Mr Varkey added:“I’m not blaming anybody for this incident, it was my mistake and I accept that it was a mistake.
“I can sell the building for some money or not but I don’t know what to do next, trading standards have a responsibility to test it again.”
Following private discussions, council licensing bosses agreed to revoke the licence.
Mr Varkey has a right to appeal the decision if he chooses to do so.
Speaking after the meeting, he said he was “disappointed by the attitude of the council and Trading Standards.”
“It was a single incident and I think it’s a very irresponsible attitude to a business,” he added.