Brighton store loses licence over fake prosecco

A shop owner who had 90 bottles of fake prosecco on sale in his shop has lost his alcohol licence.

Awarah Shikha, 28, who runs Sabina Mini Market, in Tivoli Crescent, Brighton, has 21 days to appeal against the decision to remove his licence.

The decision to revoke the shop’s licence was made after a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel hearing on Monday 9 November.

The council’s licensing department told the hearing that trading standards officers found counterfeit Verbano and Mirella fizz on sale at the shop, also known as Tivoli Food and Wine.

They also found a fake bottle of Blossom Hill white zinfandel wine. Tests found the illicit wine was not dangerous.

A licensing inspection by Sussex Police found that security cameras did not cover the whole store as required.

The licence was not correctly displayed, there were no staff training records and the designated premises superviser (DPS) left the business in 2016.

Neighbours offered their support before the hearing, with dozens of letters offering good character references for Mr Shikha.

Former councillor Christina Summers spoke for neighbours at the hearing and said that the business had been transformed in the four years since Mr Shikha had taken over.

Mr Shikha, an Iraqi, admitted his error in buying the fake wine from a “white van man”, with no way of tracing it and no receipt.

In a joint statement, Acting Sergeant Vincent Lam, of Sussex Police, and Green councillor Lizzie Deane, who chairs the council’s Licensing Committee, said: “The licensing panel considered that revocation is the only appropriate option in this case for the following reasons.

“The evidence from trading standards makes it clear that the purchase and sale of large quantities of illegal alcohol discovered in March 2020 was not the first time that the premises had been associated with this type of activity.

“The licence holder may appeal against the decision to revoke the licence and they have 21 days to do so.

“Sussex Police licensing team will support local authorities and take appropriate action when required.

“Our main objective is to safeguard the public from harm and protect vulnerable persons, prevent public nuisance, prevent crime and disorder as well as ensure premises licence holders comply with the premises licence conditions.”

At the “virtual” hearing, the panel of three councillors was told that trading standards officers found non-duty-paid spirits at the shop in 2017, just a few months after Mr Shikha took over the business.

  1. Nigel Furness Reply

    Well done, the Licencing Panel—MORE please!

  2. James Reply

    Why would his neighbours support criminal behaviour like this. What have they to gain apart from alcohol poisoning.

    • local Reply

      Because there is a huge difference between making a mistake and being a fraud. If the neighbors and the local community support the owner that means a lot. Personally I don’t see the logic in punishing both behaviours. Very damaging and unfair outcome, far from well done.

      • Bobbo Reply

        “the purchase and sale of large quantities of illegal alcohol discovered in March 2020 was not the first time that the premises had been associated with this type of activity.”

        “trading standards officers found non-duty-paid spirits at the shop in 2017, just a few months after Mr Shikha took over the business.”

        Regardless of how “nice” he is, it’s not the first time he’s been caught for selling dodgy alcohol is it (2017 & 2020), I would also hazard a guess that (not making any statement of fact) that he’s likely to have sold much more than that over the years before he was next caught.

        • local Reply

          If I remember correctly though, having read both articles about this shop, the first batch was part of the left-over stock from previous owners. According to the authorities now, for every issue, they were met with full spirit of co-operation and honesty instead of mistrust and strange behaviour. This also, means a lot.

          The fact that people support him, is not because he is just “nice”. It’s because since he took over, the shop became better in many ways. There is a wider variety of products, he brings what people ask and tries to accommodate everyone. Also, during lockdown, in contrast with some other shops, the prices didn’t go up a single penny.

          These are some of the reasons why the locals, who are the people visiting the shop almost daily, are seeing this place as part of the community and feel supportive towards it.

          I’m not suggesting that everything was done perfectly, but I don’t think for a second that there was an end game or a dodgy frame of mind behind the mistakes that were made. It would be much better, useful and productive to make sure that this person gets full training. This way the authorities are making sure that the standards will be met, the neighborhood keeps this hub and the person doesn’t lose their business.

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