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BIRMINGHAM: Shop keeps hold of licence

BIRMINGHAM: Shop keeps hold of licence

PIC: Google Street View

A chance of a “fresh start” is being given to bosses of a Sutton Coldfield shop which had been accused of selling vodka to a 15-year-old who ended up in hospital.

Lucky Food and Wine, in Jerome Road, has had its premises licence suspended for 14 days by Birmingham City Council’s licensing sub committee following a review into alleged breaches.

West Midlands Police had called for owner Sanmuganathan Rusikumar’s booze licence to be stripped amid concerns alcohol was being sold to under-age teenagers.

A statement from a 15-year-old girl said she had been able to use a fake medical ID to buy a large bottle of vodka, most of which she downed. She added she ended up in hospital as a result.

But at a hearing on Wednesday (November 17), barrister Duncan Craig – for the licence holder – said Mr Rusikumar did not accept the sales had been made.

He added there had not been a controlled trading standards ‘test purchase’ and there was insufficient evidence to support the accusations.

Members of the committee agreed but upheld concerns from licensing officers over failures to keep CCTV recordings and a refusals register.

Residents submitted statements in support of the shop with Sue Arnold speaking up at the committee hearing.

A decision notice said: “This sub committee hereby determines the licence be suspended for a period of 14 days in order that Mr Rusikumar should take the opportunity to review all practices and procedures, refresh training for all staff, and thereafter resume trading in a manner which is capable of upholding the licensing objectives in the Act.

“The sub-committee’s reasons for suspending the licence are due to concerns raised relating to compliance with conditions – specifically the
failure to retain CCTV recordings for the required number of consecutive days, and failure to maintain a refusals register at the time of inspection.

“Submissions were also made by West Midlands Police relating to suspicions about under-age sales; however, the sub-committee did not find that the evidence presented was sufficient for it to make any determination on the issue of possible under-age sales.

“It was not comparable with the usual standard of ‘underage sale’ evidence, namely test purchases witnessed by trading standards officers.

“Counsel for the licence holder confirmed that it was not accepted that any under-age sales at all had been made, as the shop had a Challenge 25 policy in force.

“Moreover the sub-committee noted the numerous letters of support for the licence holder, submitted by local residents.

“One such resident even attended the meeting in person, to confirm her support for the shop directly to the sub committee.

“This was highly unusual in any review hearing, and members considered that these representations showed that the shop was a valued community resource.

“It was striking that some of the letters confirmed in writing that the shop did in fact verify customers’ ages when selling alcohol by retail.

“Accordingly the sub-committee felt quite unable to follow the police
recommendation to revoke the licence, and instead agreed with counsel for the licence holder that the matter could be dealt with by way of a suspension of the licence.

“The members considered that 14 days would be sufficient for the licence
holder to review and refresh all aspects of his operating style, such that he could reopen again as a ‘fresh start’ for the shop.”

Words: Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter

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