A corner shop has become the first to be stripped of its drinks licence as part of a resort crackdown – amid claims its power supply was sabotaged.
Town Hall enforcement chiefs say they have identified at least 30 Blackpool businesses believed to be committing electricity theft.
And Shop Locally, on Talbot Road, has become the first where evidence of bypassing the electricity meter was discovered, a council hearing was told. Staff were also found selling alcohol despite the shop having had its licence suspended.
Councillors have now revoked the shop’s licence.
Today the council warned traders who put lives at risk by tampering with the electricity supply will be closed down.
Residents are also being urged to blow the whistle on anyone they suspect of bypassing their meter.
Following the Shop Locally hearing, another three resort takeaways are now set to be hauled before licensing panels next month.
Coun Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for public protection, said: “It is a safety risk and defrauds legitimate businesses who trade fairly and honestly.
“We won’t tolerate it in Blackpool and are working with Electricity North West to clamp down on businesses that do so.
“I’m pleased the committee have taken strong action and I hope this will serve as a warning to other businesses – we will come after you and look to revoke your licence to trade if you do so.”
A number of joint inspections have taken place in recent months involving enforcement officers from the council and Electricity North West.
The licence review of Shop Locally followed a visit to the premises on October 7. The shop’s licence to sell alcohol had already been suspended for non-payment of annual fees.
But during the visit, licensing enforcement officers found alcohol being sold, including to individuals who appeared to be drunk, as well as noticing the electricity meter appeared to have been tampered with.
Enforcement officers found evidence electricity meters had been by-passed by pulling out the electrical connections and re-attaching the wiring. This meant the meter did not tick over.
In some instances, it was a clumsy job but on other occasions, it appeared to have been carried out by people with electrical knowledge, the committee was told.
Electricity North West were alerted to the electricity issues while licensing officers spoke to staff and advised them of the suspension, serving them with a closure notice.
They later spoke to the licence holder, Amirthalinhgam Kesayaraj, who was told the shop would not be able to sell alcohol until the following Monday morning. However, staff continued to do so until a later visit by the police, leading officers to request a licence review. It is understood no criminal proceedings were launched.
Solicitor Trevor Colebourne, who represented Mr Kesayaraj at the hearing, said his client was not aware of the alleged meter bypassing
He said: “The council said there was evidence the meter had been by-passed.
“My client did not do that and as soon as it was brought to his attention, he immediately got an electrician in and got it fixed.
“One of the reasons he lost his licence was he was not paying enough attention to the business because his father had died and he had gone out to Sri Lanka for two weeks.
“He had left it with his staff, and this is where his problems lay.”
Following the hearing, Kais Kebabish on Dickson Road, Ali’s Takeaway on Central Drive and Dino’s on Ansdell Road, are now all due before council licensing panels on Friday, January 10.
Fawad Anwar, who owns Ali’s Takeaway, blamed a previous owner for alleged failures to be investigated by the panel. He said: “The council are saying the seal was broken.I think it was done by a previous owner, or even before that. I don’t know anything about how it has happened.”
Meanwhile, Mr Kesayaraj, at Shop Locally, has 21 days to appeal the decision, and Mr Colebourne said his client was still considering whether to appeal or not.
A spokesman for Electricity North West said: “The joint operation was a huge success and it should act as a warning to other businesses and residents who have tampered with their electricity.
“Electricity abstraction is a criminal offence and puts the safety of tenants, businesses and the general public at great risk. We will continue to crack down on local businesses as it is unacceptable that honest bill-paying residents across the North West are effectively having to pay for others to have free electricity.”