A Blackpool newsagents could close after councillors banned it from selling booze.
The Bolton News, on Bolton Street, had its licence to sell alcohol revoked after Blackpool Council’s licensing committee heard how an alcopop was sold to a 15-year-old girl in an undercover sting on February 21.
Councillors also heard how two customs raids, on July 11 and November 1 last year, had led to the seizure of 103 cases of strong lager. No receipts could be produced, and it was suspected that they had been smuggled with no duty paid.
The shop’s solicitor Trevor Colebourne, said after the hearing that Sithamparapillai Thevakanthan, who took over as its designated premises supervisor (DPS) and licence holder was ‘very disappointed’ with the decision, and would be appealing to magistrates.
“My instructions are that they will have to close the shop if they cannot sell alcohol,” said Mr Colebourne.
“It’s a harsh decision. There are other things they could have done, like suspending the licence for a short period.”
The hearing heard from PC Lisa Evans, Lois Peers, of the council’s weights and measures department, Mark Marshall, its licensing enforcement manager and David Armer, its child protection licensing officer,
They were told a meeting had taken place on March 11 following the incidents, involving Ms Lois, PC Evans and the then DPS and licence holder Chanthirasekaren Chanthrakumar.
But Mr Chanthrakumar told them his brother-in-law Mr Thevakanthan was responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, and was therefore advised to get the names of the DPS and licence holder changed.
The committee heard it had proved impossible to trace Elankumaran Subramanian, who had sold the alcohol to the 15-year-old.
Mr Thevakanthan admitted he had employed his colleague for just two weeks and given him verbal training about asking for ID.
Neither receipts for the lager, nor records of training given to staff on selling alcohol to under-18s, were produced in the wake of the incidents.
Mr Marshall said he had warned the shop during a visit in January about the need to keep training records.
Mr Chanthrakumar appeared before Blackpool magistrates on May 21, where he admitted both the underage sale and breaching his licence by not producing training records. He received a conditional discharge.
Mr Thevakanthan has since paid £307 in unpaid tax demanded by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs following the raid last July, but Mr Colebourne said a second demand of £3,336 and fine of £666 had been reduced to £928 and £185 after some receipts were produced.
Some training records were shown to the licensing committee, but did not cover the three months prior to the test purchase operation.
Mr Marshall told the committee: “We are talking about a premises serving vulnerable people from some deprived areas, and we are concerned about the opaque management structure.
“We are talking about putting on training for shops in the Sri Lankan community. The number is growing, and it’s fair to say we are having increasing problems.
“This decision could be a deterrent for other premises to get their house in order.”
Mr Colebourne argued Mr Thevakanthan was ‘trying to put right what’s gone on’ and was of previous good character.
He suggested imposing new conditions on the licence, including staff training, but in its decision notice, the committee said it had ‘no faith’ the conditions would be obeyed.
The notice concluded: “We believe the concerns are so serious that only revoking the licence is an appropriate and proportionate response to remedy them.”
The shop can continue selling alcohol, pending the outcome of its appeal.