Police call for ban on ‘super strength’ booze at Reading shop

By Nathan Hyde, Local Democracy Reporter

Anrish News on Oxford Road, Reading (Photo: Google Street View, July 2019)

A Reading shop could be banned from selling high-strength alcohol because police claim is it “fuelling” violent crime.

Thames Valley Police says Anrish News on Oxford Road is selling “super strength cheap beers and ciders” and this is “exacerbating the levels of street drinking and alcohol related disorder”.

The force has called on Reading Borough Council to review the premises licence, following a string of violent attacks in the shop and on the street outside.

The licence for the shop at 102 Oxford Road does not need to be revoked but a raft of new conditions should be imposed by the council, police say.

If imposed, the conditions would ban the shop from selling beers and ciders above 6.0 per cent ABV and require all staff to undergo training before they can sell alcohol and refresher training every six months.

The force wrote to the owners to recommend these conditions and offer advice on staff training in September, following an “unsatisfactory” licensing inspection, but the owners have not replied.

A Reading Borough Council licensing committee will decide whether to impose these new conditions, or revoke the licence, when it meets on Thursday, November 19.

In a report, the council’s licensing team agree the conditions should be imposed and there should be “a period of suspension” so the owners have time to make the required changes.

Five other shops on Oxford Road are due to have their licences reviewed, as part of a police crackdown.

Officers have been called to Anrish News eight times since a company called Best Food and Wine Reading Ltd took charge in July 2017, to deal with fights, anti-social behaviour and shoplifting.

During one incident, in November 2018, a group of teenagers attacked the owner, threw a bottle at him and spat at him.

A month later, a group of men started fighting inside the shop and the fight spilled out onto the street. Police could not use CCTV footage of the incident as evidence because the shop’s camera was not recording.

And in April 2019, two drunk men started fighting outside and smashing bottles. One was bleeding.

Officers carried out a licensing inspection in August and the outcome was “unsatisfactory”, as they found that staff had been poorly trained and they did not understand the existing licensing conditions.

Thames Valley Police says a known street drinker walked in during that inspection with an “expectation to purchase high strength alcohol”.

In a statement, the force said: “We have highlighted a number of incidents involving fighting and intoxicated individuals that have taken place both inside this premises and also outside within the immediate vicinity.

“Thames Valley Police submit that the common denominator that link these incidents together is the ease and availability of cheap high strength beer and cider products over the 6.0 per cent ABV mark.

“Thames Valley Police recommend that a number of conditions are required to be added to the premises licence.”