Disorder on Hove Lawns last summer has helped put a 24-hour Hove off-licence at risk of closing, a panel of councillors was told today (Wednesday 2 March).
Moonlight, in Church Road, was one of six nearby shops which failed a test purchase carried out after crowds of teenagers gathered on the seafront last June.
A police officer was injured while trying to disperse the young revellers, many of whom were drunk and under-age. Read our report about the violence here.
The six shops were told to get their act together then visited again four months later – and that time, only Moonlight failed.
Today, its lawyer Piers Warne told councillors that if its licence was revoked, it would close, and the neighbourhood would lose a valued community asset.
A Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel – made up of councillors Dee Simson, Lizzie Deane and Carmen Appich – met virtually to discuss a Sussex Police request to revoke the licence.
Police licensing officer Hannah Staplehurst said that the force had lost confidence in the store’s management and asked for the licence to be revoked.
She said: “Sussex Police do feel this premises have responded to our stepped approach and have worked with us to try to improve.
“But they have still failed under-age test purchases on two separate occasions involving two different members of staff.
“This is a serious concern, undermining the licensing objective of protection of children from harm – and further action should be considered.
“As conditions were added on Friday 3 September 2021, Sussex Police have no further conditions to add to prevent the sale of alcohol to under-age persons.
“It is difficult to see what further measures could be put into place to prevent future sales of alcohol to under-age persons. Therefore, the recommendation of Sussex Police would be the revocation of the premises licence.”
Council licensing officer Donna Lynsdale said that the store had been brought to the authorities’ attention when residents complained that it was selling alcohol to street drinkers some weeks before the Hove Lawns incidents.
She and PC Andre Bernascone had carried out an inspection in March last year and found a number of breaches, including out-of-date food – and alcohol products without English labelling – on sale.
After the Hove Lawns disorder, police carried out a test purchase operation last August when Moonlight sold a large bottle of Stella to a 15-year-old boy.
A meeting was held the following week and conditions added to the store’s licence.
However, on Thursday 9 December, a 16-year-old boy volunteering for the police was sold a bottle of Sol.
Piers Warne told the panel that licence holder Tony Gad had been managing the store for more than 15 years.
He said that the staff member who had sold the Sol to the 16-year-old had not worked since because it had been a “blow” to his confidence on just his third day at work.
But he said that he had undertaken licensing training and hoped to return.
He said: “It’s one thing to punish an individual. He’s taken his rap on the knuckles and done his training.
“It’s a completely different thing to remove the licence, which would close the business and make staff redundant and customers would lose a community amenity.
“This should be a last resort.”
The panel retired to consider its verdict which should be published within five working days.