Shop’s licence under review after alcohol and tobacco allegations

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A review is being carried out into an off licence’s sale of alcohol following a series of breaches and the alleged discovery of stashed illicit tobacco.

Vine Stores in Middle Street, Blackhall, will be brought before Durham County Council’s Sub Licensing Sub-Committee following a series of incidents.

The supply of illegal tobacco undermines the licensing objective to protect children from harm.

Andrew Cook

Checks at the shop at the end of August last year found alcohol was on display for sale at a time when a premises licence was in place, but no personal licence was held by its owner Balraj Singh, which meant none could be sold.

Papers to be considered by the committee state that during a visit by officials he said his wife was the Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) for the business.

The review papers say no staff training records or incident book were kept, alcohol was next to sweets and other items attractive to children, no CCTV was installed or lights at the rear to link up to cameras, and no notices detailing the licence holder were on show.

By the next visit, Mr Singh, who is also known as Balraj Singh Takhar, had gained his DPS, but it was found he had failed to address the issues raised, with drink still for sale and the owner telling them he had “no intention of installing CCTV in the premises or doing any other work”, as he was moving businesses in four weeks.

In a report by licensing enforcement team leader Nicola Anderson, she said the council had “significant concerns” about Mr Singh’s suitability to hold a licence and to continue as DPS for the shop.

She added: “We have little confidence in his willingness to comply with statutory requirements of the Licensing Act in relation to application of the conditions of his premises licence and we consider that his actions to date have undermined at least two of the other four licensing objectives.”

She also said a prosecution file had been prepared and details four allegations he could face for selling alcohol without authorisation.

The papers also reveal how a visit in August led to the discovery of carrier bags containing cigarettes and tobacco stored below the floorboards following a report the premises was being used in the supply of illicit products.

Checks found they were counterfeit and did not comply with legislation relating to health warnings, with a mobile phone also seized.

In interview, he had said the goods had been for his use and denied any intention to supply them to others.

Trading Standards officials and the council’s Local Safeguarding Children Board are supporting the review of the licence.

Andrew Cook, a team leader with Trading Standards, said: “The supply of illegal tobacco undermines the licensing objective to protect children from harm.”

No one from the shop could be contacted for comment.

The committee will meet on Tuesday, January 9, at 10am in the Council Chamber of County Hall, Durham.