Councillors have been called on to review the alcohol licence of a Bedford shop that sold a bottle of counterfeit vodka to a customer who later felt ill and complained that it tasted of nail polish.
A barrister for Midland Local Store told the licensing sub-committee of Bedford Borough Council that someone had brought a box of 24 fake 35 cl bottles of vodka from a “white van man” but that it was a one-off.
Barrister Leo Charalambides told the sub-committee on Tuesday (March 16) that the operators had learned their lesson and have agreed to make changes to the way they run the shop at 99a Midland Road.
Mr Charalambides said the prospect of paying his fees should act as a deterrent.
“They might try to buy once or twice from a white van man,” he said.
“But by the time they have paid their agent Lockett and Co, and by the time they have paid me there is quite a financial impact that comes on the back of this.”
The counterfeit product had been removed and there were no other concerns with the premises, he said.
He argued that to take away the shop’s licence would be “disproportionate”. They now have to buy from reputable suppliers and keep receipts.
Paul Brennan, a council trading standards team leader told councillors after hearing the barrister put his case that he changed his recommendation.
Instead of wanting the licence to be revoked, which was the council’s automatic position, he said a full suite of 21 agreed conditions would be good enough.
Mr Brennan had told the hearing that the licence holders had not contacted him 125 days after he visited the shop last October and invited them to talk.
He had found and seized four bottles openly in the front of the shop and 16 in a store room out of a box of 24.
The hearing was only to consider the licence, not whether the shop operators were criminally guilty, the sub-committee heard.
The customer had contacted the makers of Glen’s Vodka to complain and the company Loch Lomond Group had confirmed that it was a counterfeit product.
Mr Charalambides said two brothers who run the Bedford store and two more Harrow, should have spoken to the council.
“They have been advised that the best way is to engage in partnership with the council,” he said.
“This will hopefully teach them that talking to Paul and the licensing authority is far more effective and if you do that, and as I often say to clients, engaging with them is far more cost-effective and practical.”
Before the three councillors retired to a private virtual meeting to consider their decision Mr Brennan said he had changed his recommendation.
“From Leo’s submissions and the willingness to accept the conditions I am now recommending accepting this and applying them,” he said.
A decision notice is due to be placed on the council’s website within five working days of the hearing.
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter