Wallsend shop’s alcohol licence revoked after 65,000 illegal cigarettes found on premises

By Austen Shakespeare, Local Democracy Reporter

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Booze Master Food Centre in Wallsend (Photo via LDRS)

A Wallsend shop has had its alcohol licence revoked after police and trading standards connected the shop to the alleged sale of illegal tobacco.

Police officers and officials from trading standards seized 65,000 illegal cigarettes and 13.5kg of prohibited rolling tobacco from Booze Master Food Centre on February 9.

The officials were acting on intelligence gathered from locals who alleged they had witnessed the sale of unusually cheap tobacco products and alcohol in the High East Street store.

One witness told officials: “They are selling everyday 9am until 9pm. They are hiding it in a special room in the back of the shop left hand side. Hiding it behind customer service. [Name redacted] is in the shop. Selling cigarettes and alcohol to underage.”

HMRC said the tax liability of the tobacco seized amounted to £24,399.26.

On another occasion on April 14, a trading standards officer was able to purchase a packet of illegal “duty free” Lambert and Butler cigarettes for a mere £5.

Authorities interviewed two people in connection to the shop under caution, however neither claimed responsibility for the illicit products.

North Tyneside council’s licensing sub-committee was recommended by Northumbria Police, trading standards, and the council’s own public protection manager, Joanne Lee, to revoke the shop’s right to sell alcohol.

A report from trading standards informed the committee: “It is worth noting that illicit tobacco is often linked to wider crime, most often regional, national, and international organised crime, which filters through as low level crime in local communities.

“It is very important to stop the sales of illicit tobacco, as not only does it have serious consequences for health, it also discourages smokers from quitting due to its low price.”

Although the sale of tobacco is not covered by the Licensing Act 2003, it can be revoked if relevant authorities are convinced the licensing objective of the prevention of crime and disorder is not being adhered to.

Other alleged misdemeanours were also recorded on the premises by council inspectors. Such misdemeanours include inaccessible CCTV footage, no staff training relating to the sale of alcohol, and a total lack of proxy sale signs within or outside the premises.

The proprietors of Booze Master Food Centre did not represent themselves at the review meeting on Friday (June 24). After a brief private deliberation the committee decided to revoke the premises alcohol licence on the grounds of crime and disorder.

Booze Master Food Centre has been approached for comment.