A shop may be banned from selling alcohol after it was caught selling drinks to under-age teenagers twice in a matter of months.
Police asked councillors to consider suspending the licence for the Nisa store, in The Highway, Moulsecoomb, for eight weeks.
Sussex Police applied to Brighton and Hove City Council for a licence review after test purchases by 16-year-olds in August and December.
On both occasions the youngsters were able to buy drinks even though they weren’t 18.
And today (Monday 16 March) a council licensing panel heard from the police and the shop’s owners as they weighed up their decision.
Police said that they carried out the first test purchase after young people linked with a serious incident in the area said that they had bought alcohol from the shop.
Two people were stabbed at a house party in Bevendean Crescent last July.
The licensing panel, which sat at Hove Town Hall today, was told that a member of staff was fined after a 16-year-old volunteer bought alcohol on Wednesday 21 August.
A second test took place on Monday 16 December when another 16-year-old bought a discounted bottle of Amstel beer from a new member of staff who had been trained the day before.
Sussex Police licensing officer Hannah Staplehurst said that the staff member did not realise that the bottle contained alcohol because she did not drink and the till did not alert her.
She said: “I feel they have worked very well with us between the two failures.
“The lady who was on the till … it was her first day on the till and she had a member of staff who was supposed to be working with her.
“Unfortunately, the member of staff who was working with her had her back to her the whole time. Had she been facing the right way she would have picked up it was a bottle of alcohol.”
Ms Staplehurst said that it would be helpful if staff learnt about the products that they were selling rather than relying on the till to prompt them.
Officers also found Lambrini White, a high-alcohol perry, on sale even though the shop had signed up to the council and police’s “sensible on strength” policy after the first failed test.
Conservative councillor Dee Simson asked if the business had come to the attention of the police before. The answer was no.
Licensing consultant Gill Sherratt said that the Patel family had owned the business as ASPS (Brighton) Limited for nearly 20 years without any problems.
The shop employed 20 staff and included the post office and a Subway franchise.
She said that the operations director Minkit Patel planned to take over as the designated premises supervisor (DPS) and spend more time at the store.
Ms Sherratt said: “This is a company that absolutely accepts the reasons why they are here. They understand the concerns and have worked extremely hard to address every issue.”
She said that she had been troubleshooting the business and had organised better training. And she offered to including a longer supervision period for new staff as well as arranging eight external test sales over the next two years.
She asked the panel not to suspend the licence, saying that the owners had worked with the council to address concerns and were “beside themselves” at failing the test purchases.
Staff had British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) training and qualifications, with regular refresher sessions.
Mr Patel said: “This is a family business since before I was born. We’ve had up to 20 stores. It’s the first time anything has happened.
“I’m sorry it has come to this. I can assure you I will do everything I can to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
The licensing panel, which also included Labour councillors Jackie O’Quinn and Theresa Fowler, was told that Moulsecoomb and Bevendean ward was one of the worst out of 21 council wards in Brighton and Hove for alcohol-associated crime and disorder. Offences included violence, sexual offences and criminal damage.
Councillor O’Quinn, who chaired the panel, said: “What we are mindful of is under-age drinking that leads to crime and disorder. This is a very difficult area of the city. It really helps if sales of alcohol are under control.”
The panel made its decision in private. It is due to be made public in five working days.
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