A corner shop found to be storing 14,000 counterfeit cigarettes could be put out of business if its alcohol licence is revoked, a meeting heard.
Trading standards officers and Bedfordshire Police have called for the alcohol licence for PJ Supermarket, in Aspley Road, Bedford, to be revoked following a visit to the shop last November.
As well as 14,000 counterfeit cigarettes and 5kg of hand rolling tobacco, trading standards and police discovered Indian chewing tobacco that cannot be sold in this country.
Although alcohol licences do not regulate the sale of cigarettes, a committee meeting this morning (Tuesday) was told there is a link to promoting the licensing objectives.
These are the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm.
“The loss of income from alcohol sales would make it impossible for the shop to continue to trade,” said Jennifer Brenton, a barrister, on behalf of licence holder, Param Jit.
Miss Brenton then told a meeting of Bedford Council’s licensing sub-committee that the grocery store has support from customers who find it a safe and convenient place to buy goods.
She did not contest the facts put to the three councillors who were meeting to decide what to do about the shop’s licence. The discoveries followed a tip-off.
Miss Brenton instead suggested that the committee should suspend the licence for three months, and to remove Mr Jit as licence holder.
Claiming that the issues were to do with poor management, she said stronger conditions could be slapped onto the licence, which had been in place since 2007.
“The aim of the licensing legislation is not to punish but to uphold the licensing objectives,” she said.
Miss Brenton was quizzed about an immigration raid in 2014 when an illegal worker was found and the shop paid a reduced £7,750 penalty.
Miss Brenton said Mr Jit was unaware that the person did not have a correct student visa.
“It happened six years ago and was a one-off,” she said.
In a summary to councillors, Mr Brennan said he believed that revocation would be “correct and proportionate”.
But he accepted that a “pragmatic approach” may be to go with the suggestions of Miss Brenton.
“It’s up to you,” he told the committee as they retired to make their decision.
The meeting was told that the decision would be posted on the council’s website sometime in the next five working days.
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter