Shop stripped of licence applies once more

By Sarah Booker-Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter

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A Nifty Store, Preston Road, Brighton

Smuggled cigarettes were found on sale in a shop where the owner has applied for a drinks licence after the previous licence was revoked.

The discovery is included in a report to councillors as they prepare to convene a licensing panel to decide the application next week.

Kamber Koluman, 53, hopes to be able to sell beers, wines and spirits at his shop, A Nifty Store, in Preston Road, Brighton, from 9am to 11pm seven days a week.

But Sussex Police has opposed the application, citing the discovery of the illicit cigarettes in a formal objection sent in to Brighton and Hove City Council.

Inspector Rob Lovell – whose name was redacted in council papers – said: “Sussex Police has serious concerns over the crime and disorder in this area.”

He said that the area suffered largely from theft, violent crime and public order problems.

He added: “These types of crimes form the majority of the crimes committed in 2019 and 2020 in the local area surrounding Preston Road.

“We are also aware that alcohol and drugs are believed to be a contributing factor to a percentage of these crimes.

“In 2020, there has been a large number of reported incidents, of which the majority were reported as ASB (anti-social behaviour) nuisance.

“Sussex Police have further concerns as in 2017 this premises had its premises licence revoked following a review launched by Sussex Police.

“This was following a failed test purchase, no confidence in the management or landlord having tried to follow the stepped approach and a number of crimes and breaches.

“We note the applicant of this new premises application is the landlord of the premises in 2017.”

In 2017 when the business lost its licence, it was known as International Food and Wine.

Since then, there have been two applications for a new alcohol licence. The most recent was made in February last year when the premises was called Moonlight.

The force also supplied a sworn statement from a consultant who researches the illicit tobacco trade across the country and found illegal cigarettes at the shop.

His name and the name of his consultancy were redacted in the formal public papers.

The crime consultant said that a “test purchase” was carried out on Wednesday 21 October this year.

The shop sold a pack of Marlboro Gold cigarettes for £7 from under the counter even though the brand usually sells for about £11.80 for 20.

The packet was fully branded with Polish health warnings and tax stamps and did not have the required packaging.

In a separate statement, an anonymous council licensing officer and fair trading officer, with names kept secret by redaction, said that on Thursday 13 August this year, a visit was made to the shop to talk about knife sales with Kamber Koluman.

They found that the security cameras did not cover where knives were on sale and the shelves were also out of view from the counter.

Koluman was also asked about “drug paraphernalia” on sale behind the counter which he described as something that “customers had asked for”.

Ten other objections were received along with a letter of support – all with the details redacted.

One anonymous objector said that there were four licensed convenience stores selling alcohol until the early hours, two pubs, four licensed restaurants and three takeaway food outlets within a short distance.

The anonymous objector said: “I fail to see the need for yet another premises selling alcohol, which will only attract more people, some already the worse for drink, leading to public nuisance and criminal behaviour.

“I also feel it is important to support the local established businesses who are currently struggling during these abnormal times due to covid-19.

“Granting yet another alcohol licence in the area will have a detrimental effect on these businesses.”

Another anonymous objector wrote: “While this shop was shut, and since it has reopened without the licence requested, our street has become a much nicer environment and safer place to be, less noise and under-age drinking.

“Many families and people of all ages live in the street. We need to be able to get sleep and walk in safely to our houses at any hour of the day.”

The anonymous letter of support said: “The shop seems to be well run and I do not feel the granting of the licence would cause any additional problems to the area.”

Koluman said that he would join the council’s Sensible on Strength scheme, the Business Crime Reduction Partnership and the London Road Area Local Action Team.

The application is due to be decided by a licensing panel, made up of three councillors, which is scheduled to hold a “virtual” hearing at 10am on 23 November. The hearing is due to be webcast on the council’s website.