New owners of Newcastle shop accused of underage booze sales bids to win back licence

By Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter

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General view of Fawdon Wine Centre on Fawdon Park Road, Newcastle. Photo: NCJ Media via LDRS

A Newcastle shop previously accused of selling booze to children is bidding to win back its licence after being taken under new management.

Youngsters aged just 13 were among those allegedly being served vodka, wine and other alcohol from the Fawdon Wine Centre, according to lengthy Northumbria Police complaints from 2020.

The business was said to have caused “absolute misery” for people living around Fawdon Park Road, with underage kids supposedly flocking to the shop from around Tyneside and becoming a major nuisance for locals.

But, after the Lifestyle Express store changed hands last summer, its new bosses are bidding to regain the site’s surrendered alcohol sales licence.

At a Newcastle City Council hearing on Tuesday morning, councillors were told that the past problems were “nothing to do with this premises and this operation”.

Solicitor Matt Foster said that new operators Gurmit and Kuljit Singh had more than 50 years of combined experience running convenience stores, adding: “My client brings an enormous amount of experience to this premises and they won’t let you down.”

He also confirmed that a condition of the shop’s new licence would be banning four people involved in the former Wine Centre business from playing any role in the new operation – though one, Santok Singh, remains the building’s landlord.

However, the plans attracted multiple objections from neighbours fearing a return to the shop’s troubled past.

One objector wrote: “This business is still in the hands of the people who caused absolute misery to all of Fawdon Park Road by allowing alcohol to be sold to children on an industrial scale. The Metro was used by these children to travel here from many places in Newcastle and their destructive drunken antics forced several people to sell their homes.”

Mr Foster told the council’s licensing sub-committee that residents’ worries  were based on “fear” rather than any actual problems with the new management, saying: “It is not an issue with the area, it was an issue with a bad operator in the area. What we would expect is that a good operator would not impact in the way in which it is feared.”

He said the store had collected 140 letters of support from locals, including testimony that there had been “no funny business” with the new managers and that they were “very professional”.

If approved by the city council, the shop’s licence would allow for the sale of alcohol from 9am to 9pm every day – but would only be valid for an initial 12 months, a time limit requested by Northumbria Police.

Fawdon and West Gosforth’s three Lib Dem councillors had also objected to the latest plans, worrying that a return of alcohol sales could spark an uptick in anti-social behaviour.

Peter Lovatt, Nick Cott, and Brenda Hindmarsh wrote: “The public have felt much safer in their own homes and outside in the street since the licence was withdrawn. Alcohol related disorder in Fawdon Park opposite and at Dykefield have reduced significantly since the licence was revoked. During our litter picks we would collect significant amounts of vodka bottles and beer cans each month, this has been almost zero for a significant amount of months.”