A convenience store in Southgate, Enfield has had its licence to sell alcohol suspended after illegal cigarettes were found on the premises.
Councillors imposed the three-month ban on Maxi Food and Wine in Chase Side after trading standards officers seized 50 packets of illegal cigarettes during an inspection of the premises in August last year.
The discovery came after two packets of cigarettes that breached regulations were bought during a test-purchase exercise in March. During the August inspection officials also found 343 vapes and e-cigarettes, 202 packets of Viagra and 15 packets of Sildenafil – all of which breached regulations.
According to a council report, drug paraphernalia was displayed for sale and “large cannisters” of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, were found on the premises. Nitrous oxide is sometimes used recreationally but it is illegal to sell the substance to anyone under the age of 18.
Enfield Council’s licensing subcommittee reviewed the store’s licence during a meeting on 4 January. Esther Hughes, the council’s head of service for consumer protection, told the committee that a “wide range of unlawful activity” had taken place under licence holder Aylin Yengin “despite advice to prevent such activity having been provided by the council”.
Justyna Golota, from the Metropolitan Police’s licensing unit, said they had received eight complaints relating to the premises during the past two years, ranging from reports of suspicious circumstances to drugs and anti-social behaviour. Under questioning from councillors, she said the incidents took place “in the vicinity” of the store.
PC Golota told councillors police “do not believe that the premises and the current way they are operating is upholding licensing objectives”.
Solicitor Robert Sutherland, representing family-run Maxi Food and Wine, said the allegations reported to the police could have been made by someone with “an axe to grind”. He said it was not an offence to sell nitrous oxide and denied drug paraphernalia was on sale, claiming this related to “pipes” that could be used “for the smoking of any substance, whether that’s drugs or not”.
Robert said the vapes had been purchased legitimately, but regulations had since changed. He added that an employee believed to be responsible for the illicit tobacco had been fired. “For us, it is about ensuring it does not happen again,” he said.
Under questioning from the committee, Robert accepted that Viagra was on sale but said it had since been removed, along with the pipes and vapes. He added that the family had been preoccupied with the birth of Aylin Yengin’s daughter in September 2021 and the death of another family member and that a range of improvements had recently been made, including hiring a consultant to provide advice on compliance and carrying out formal training.
Trading standards had recommended revoking the shop’s licence. But after considering the matter in private, the committee announced it had decided to modify the conditions of the licence and to suspend it “for a period not exceeding three months”.
Committee chair Esin Gunes said the committee had considered revoking the licence because of the seriousness of the allegations. However, she added that the family had acknowledged its previous failures, made improvements and would undertake test purchases “to ensure staff are using their policies appropriately”.
Cllr Gunes continued: “Nonetheless, the wrongdoing discovered was so serious that despite the acknowledged changes, the licensing subcommittee feel that anything short of a three-month suspension would be inadequate.
“The licensing subcommittee anticipate that the local authority will be undertaking checks to ensure that the business is now promoting the licensing objectives. The licensing [subcommittee] will be very disappointed if this business should be back before them because further failures have been discovered.”