Local authorities in the east London council area of Newham have recently reported a successful crackdown on convenience stores selling unlicensed alcohol, making several thousand pounds worth of seizures, reports the council publication The Newham Mag.
The magazine reports that more than 2,200 litres of spirits and other alcoholic beverages were confiscated by Newham Council‘s licensing team, which is responsible for the authorisation of local shopkeepers to sell alcohol to residents. The team has regularly carried out surprise inspections of stores believed to be selling drink under the table without the legally required licence, before authorising raids to seize the unlicensed stock and punish offenders through the legal system.
Licensing officers visited several stores and seized quantities of cider, beers and spirits either because the stores had no legal permission to sell alcohol on their premises or because they were selling drinks that had an alcoholic content above what was allowed on their licence.
Around 500 litres of unlicensed spirits were pulled off the shelves at Vanesh Super Store, a corner store located on Bramall Close in Stratford. Early last year the same shop, also known as Vana’s Superstore, had its alcohol licence revoked by the council after its employees failed to follow ‘Challenge 21‘ guidance following a test purchase using a young person. The Challenge 21 rules prohibit the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of eighteen and staff are expected to ask for age identification before handing over the goods.
In another confiscation which happened shortly before Christmas, 1,700 litres of alcohol was seized from Forest Gate Food and Wine, a grocery and mobile top-up shop on the Woodgrange Road in Forest Gate, near the border with Waltham Forest borough. This store was also caught out following a test purchase carried out by the council using an undercover police officer. The anonymous officer was able to buy extra-strength beer which had been imported from Poland, though Forest Gate Food and Wine’s licence did not allow them to sell these products. Pictures from the raid on December 20 showed council officers with a van packed with crates of alcohol, mainly stout and high-strength beer. Crates of Guinness stout, Dragon Stout from Jamaica, and the imported high-strength beverages branded Debowe and Perla from Poland were observed by a staff photographer from the Newham Recorder who witnessed the raid in Forest Gate.
Councillor Ian Corbett, the Newham mayoral adviser for environment and leisure, spoke with The Newham Mag. “Irresponsible off-licences can make the lives of residents miserable. Selling high strength alcohol without permission can often result in anti-social behaviour” he said.
Under Newham’s licensing rules, premises such as nightclubs and stores that wish to sell alcohol to customers must have a ‘premises licence’, on which a fee is paid to the council. The licensee is then required to display a licence notice on their premises and also make an announcement of licensing in the local newspaper. They may also have to inform certain parties, such as the police, fire and rescue and other departments in the council to allay any safety or crime concerns.
Anti-social behaviour and violence fuelled by alcohol is an ongoing problem in both Newham and the wider London area, causing residents to be fearful of going out at night or in visiting popular entertainment venues. A survey for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2013 reported that nearly a third of respondents said they were the victim of ‘yobbish’ behaviour or anti-social activities within the past year, often by troublemakers under the influence of alcohol. Eighty-one per cent felt that anti-social behaviour had gone up in England and Wales, reported the Telegraph.
Newham Council are planning to bring further action and prosecutions against the business owners caught in the latest licensing sting.