By Nigel Slater, Local Democracy Reporter
More than 100 super-strong beer cans and bottles were removed from a prominent Derby shop after authorities found licence conditions were being breached.
The incident happened in February after trading standards officers saw evidence the Go Local Extra store, on Midland Road, near Derby railway station, was selling super-strong beers after it was ordered not to by police and licensing officers because of excessive street drinking problems in the area. Police claim it was found other licence conditions were breached as well.
Details of the incident at the shop – which are at the premises of the former Tiffany Lounge pub – came to light during a recent Derby City Council licensing hearing where the convenience store’s manager and his representatives pleaded their case with councillors to remove the licence condition of not being able to sell high strength alcohol at 6.5 per cent ABV and over.
The premise licence holder of the store, Puveetharan Paramathas, blamed the removal incident on a “misunderstanding” and told the hearing that his agent (who agreed with police to the condition) had failed to inform him about the restriction placed, meaning he was unaware of it until action was taken. The condition wording in full which was agreed when the license was first issued states: “No super-strength beer, lager or cider 6.5% abv (alcohol by volume) or above shall be sold at the premises.”
The hearing heard how Mr Paramathas runs several convenience stores across the city and is a “very experienced” operator. He told the hearing that his other stores do not have such a condition in place which he claimed was part of the reason for the misunderstanding. Following the incident advice was given to the owner and work carried out to ensure he meets the licensing conditions. No other issues have been reported since.
But Mr Paramathas applied to the council to remove the condition because he feels his business is at a “disadvantage” to other stores in the area who sell super-strength alcohol. He told councillors that he wants a “level playing field”.
Mr Paramathas’s legal representative Frank Fender said: “The applicant claims he loses business as a result of this condition especially when other shops have no restrictions on the strength of the beers, lagers and ciders that they sell. It’s not a case of losing business purely because he can’t sell those products.
“What happens is when customers go into the premises to buy those products they buy other products as well – it is called the shopping basket mentality. As well as buying alcohol they’ll pick up their bread, milk and biscuits and other grocery products. The fact that the applicant today cannot sell those products which some people want to buy, those people go to the other shops and fill their shopping basket – he loses the business.”
However, Derbyshire police raised concerns with the licensing application made by Mr Paramathas as the force fears the ability of selling super-strength alcohol at the premises could exacerbate serious street drinking problems in that part of Derby.
In a statement to the council police licence enforcement officer Gareth Fowler said: “There is an ongoing issue with street drinkers in the area which is causing issues for local business and residents alike. This was the reason that certain conditions were placed onto this licence and further, with the addition of these conditions the reason why the original premise license application was not objected to. I have no doubt that if stronger beers and cider are available from this premises this problem would be exacerbated with the resulting incidents affecting all four of the licensing objectives.”
The three Derby councillors who were part of the licensing sub-committee – Alison Holmes, John Wright and Sarah Chambers – decided to refuse the application to remove the condition placed on the shop. The committee said the removal of the condition “would undermine” the council’s licensing objectives which include: “the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm.”
Minutes from the meeting read: “The sub-committee appreciated that the applicant sought to vary the license in order to be “more competitive” with other shops in the area, however the sub-committee’s focus was to ensure the licensing objectives were not undermined. The sub-committee felt the removal of condition 12 would undermine these objectives in particular crime and disorder given the correlation between the high-strength alcohol that would be sold and street drinking in the area.”
(Local Democracy Reporting Service)