Police oppose shop booze bid over violence and trouble fears

By Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter

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Usman Food Store on Yarm Lane, Stockton

Fresh efforts to sell booze from a busy convenience store have been opposed by police four years after a similar bid was rejected.

Stockton shop owner Muhammed Adnan Rabani wants to sell alcohol from the Usman Food Store, on Yarm Lane, to keep up with other vendors nearby.

But the licensing unit at Cleveland Police have opposed the bid – pointing to levels of street drinking and violence ahead of a Stockton Council licensing hearing next Tuesday (May 26).

A separate bid to sell booze from the corner shop was rejected in 2016 given worries the shop was in a “hotspot” for alcohol-related trouble.

On the back of this latest effort, Cleveland Police licensing officer Andrew Thorpe wrote to the council to warn this was still the case.

The objection letter added: “The area suffers from alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour, which manifests in street drinking, violence and prostitution.

“There have been two violent street murders in this LSOA (output area) in the last 18 months.

“By allowing the premise to sell alcohol it will attract further problems which will then be fuelled by the need for and consumption of alcohol – causing the exacerbation of these problems.”

Lee Cooper, 43, was murdered in a savage attack on Parkfield’s Westbourne Street in December 2018.

Cleveland Police launched a separate murder investigation in December after a suspected attack in Parliament Street.

Such trouble and deprivation in the ward where the shop sits were behind the force’s concerns.

And PC Thorpe’s letter shared worries about criminals using the store.

He added: “In recent times, police have been concerned that criminals use the shop to purchase items with stolen bank cards using contactless payments repeatedly to buy goods in numerous transactions, instead of one single transaction where the PIN would be needed.

“This raises questions about the effectiveness of staff at the premises to prevent crime and disorder – a key licensing objective.”

Stockton Council’s public health team has also lodged an objection to the bid – with its officers pointing to the borough’s wider problems with booze.

The report added: “A recent survey identified that of those residents who drink, Stockton residents are more likely to drink heavily than the North-east average when they do.”

Application papers show Mr Rabani wants to be able to sell alcohol from the store from 9am until 10pm.

His report to Stockton Council stressed the store was in a competitive area – and was losing trade due to not being able to sell alcohol.

He told the authority he was experienced in the trade – running an off-licence in County Durham for the past two years.

And he also pointed to CCTV which was already installed at the shop.

The application added: “We have recently spent a huge amount of money to restructure it and redesign the whole shop. The shop is in great condition and ready to serve alcohol.

“This would bring more customers into the business and would help the small business survive in a competitive area.”

Councillors will decide on the bid at a statutory licensing committee meeting next Tuesday (Mary 26).