By Joe Sweeney, Local Democracy Reporter
A shop in Wolverhampton is facing a licence review after Trading Standards bosses caught it selling beers and a vape to under 18s.
Family Shop in Birchwood Road, Penn, first came to the attention of licensing bosses in December 2022, when the council’s Trading Standards service received a number of complaints alleging that age-restricted products were being sold to minors.
Trading Standards district officer Gurdip Gill submitted the application for review to the statutory licensing sub-committee on July 6. West Midlands Police and Public Health have also raised concerns.
In a statement to members he said: “Family Shop was included in an organised underage sales test purchase exercise on July 3, in which retailers across Wolverhampton were tested in relation to whether they were carrying out required age verification checks and challenging customers who attempted to purchase age-restricted products.
“Two 17-year-old authorised volunteers acting on behalf of the council went into the shop together and were sold a Crystal Pro Max Fresh Mint 4000+ puffs vape, a can of REDDS Zurawina fruit beer at 4.5% ABV with no English language warning, and a can of REDDS Marakuja fruit beer at 4% ABV – all without being challenged.
“The total price of the products came to £15.50, but the shop assistant charged the child volunteers £15 after they told him that was all they had. No attempt was made to verify their age or ask for any form of identification. The sale was witnessed by a Trading Standards officer who was in the shop at the time.
“After leaving the shop, the volunteers handed the products they had been sold to a Trading Standards officer who placed them into evidence bags and then sealed them. The volunteers were refused age-restricted products at other shops that day,” he added.
“Afterwards, a Trading Standards officer went into the shop to discuss the sale that had taken place. The shop assistant contacted the owner of the business, Harim Ali Abdullah, who then went to the premises.
“At the time, the following contraventions were also found at the premises: there was no tobacco notice on display and no refusals book available to inspect. Also, the cigarette gantry was open, leaving tobacco products on display.
“The CCTV was working but Mr Abdullah told the Trading Standards officer that he did not know how to operate it. There was no evidence of any training being provided to staff about age-restricted sales legislation in relation to age verification and challenging customers attempting to purchase alcohol,” said Mr Gill.
“A trader’s notice was issued to Mr Abdullah, who has engaged in activities that have breached the licensing objectives.”
In further written correspondence, Public Health senior specialist Ryan Hollings said: “With breaches of the licensing conditions reported, Public Health is not reassured that the business is operating in adherence to the Licensing Act 2003 and therefore supports Trading Standards in its request to review the current licence.
“Any licensee who is not actively promoting the licensing objectives should be subject to review, particularly in view of the complex issues facing the area.”
West Midlands Police licensing officer Kayley Nixon added: “It is an offence for a reasonable person to unlawfully sell alcohol to an individual under 18 years of age.”
All concerned parties have been invited to attend the hearing at the Civic Centre next Thursday, August 31.
(Local Democracy Reporting Service)