Off-licence told to close after underage sale

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A SUTTON BRIDGE off-licence has been ordered to close for four weeks after being caught selling alcohol to under-18s.

A panel of South Holland District Council licensing committee made the decision after a request from Lincolnshire Police to review Bargain Booze’s licence.

The off-licence in Bridge Road, was caught during an undercover “sting” selling cider, lager and cigarettes to two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old.

One of the two men who sold the alcohol was a foreign national who did not have the right to work in the country.

The test purchase operation was carried out on September 17 as a joint operation between Lincolnshire Police and Trading Standards following intelligence that suggested young people were buying alcohol there.

Police reported that there had been incidents where young people had been drinking and claimed they got the alcohol from Bargain Booze.

But premises licence holder Gurjit Singha contested the intelligence, saying he had suffered repeated thefts, where young people in hoodies had burst into the shop and stolen crates of beer.

During the hearing Mr Singha was questioned by the panel about the policies and procedures he had in place to ensure alcohol wasn’t sold to under-18s and Mr Singha explained that he operates the Challenge 25 system, where anyone who appears under 25 is asked to provide ID.

He said he did not understand why the procedures were not followed during the test purchase, and the member of staff had received a final written warning and faces losing his job if it happens again.

The foreign national was a relative who had been visiting, and Mr Singha said he had no idea he was serving in the shop and should not have done so.

Daniel Richardson, on behalf of Lincolnshire Police, said by selling alcohol to under 18s, Bargain Booze had contravened all four of the licensing objectives: prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of noise nuisance and the protection of children from harm.

Mr Singha has 21 days from being served with the notice of the panel’s decision to appeal, and if he chooses not to the shop will be required to close for four weeks.

The panel also imposed other conditions which Mr Singha must adhere to to comply with the licence, including ensuring there is always a personal licence holder at the shop when it is open for the sale of alcohol as well as a member of staff who is trained to the standard set out by the Bargain Booze national chain in its training package.