THE FUTURE of a Wokingham off-licence hangs in the balance, after an alcohol licence hearing on Monday.
At the Licensing and Appeals Sub-Committee, Leo Charalambides a representative for BB Wines, on Broad Street, pleaded the shop owner’s case.
It comes as Parmit Singh Kapoor, owner, sold alcohol to under-age teens three times, one of which he was prosecuted for at Reading Magistrates Court.
Mr Kapoor sold beer to a 16-year-old boy in April this year, and again to the same teenage boy and a girl who had just turned 17, in July.
During the summer incident, Mr Kapoor was on the phone. When licensing officers confronted him, he said: “Ah, you caught me again.”
Mr Charalambides argued that Mr Kapoor had passed previous underage test purchases in February and March 2019, and January 2020, and knew the type of people to look out for.
At the hearing, he said: “We’ve noticed a change in the character of the area, particularly in the past few years, having issues with children coming in, trying to buy alcohol, and picking up alcohol and running out of the store.
“Mr Kapoor recognises what the likely lads and lasses look like. They’re very different from the clean cut scouts and police cadets that are used in test purchases.
“That’s not to make an excuse, it’s just to point out there’s a difference between someone in the locality who knows the faces, style and attitude of children trying to buy alcohol and the very different body language and attitude of kids fulfilling their undercover spy fantasies working for the police and trading standards.”
This summer, he was prosecuted for selling alcohol to a girl on Monday, December, 10, 2018, and was ordered to pay £330.
Mr Charalambides defended the incident, and said: “There was concern around the appearance of the girl, who we said had a great deal of makeup and looked a lot older than she actually was.”
He suggested a minimum of two staff at BB Wines from 3pm onwards, and said the shop has become busier after four off-licences closed in recent years.
Mr Charalambides also said Mr Kapoor had struggled with staffing this year, after one employee, Mr Banala, visited his parents in India after they caught Covid-19, and “got stuck” there due to coronavirus measures and the cost of returning to the UK.
He also said Mr Kapoor and staff members Sammy Miah and Mr Banala had been trained by Surendra Panchal, a personal licence holder trainer, who conducts courses in English and Bengali.
The committee did not reach a decision in the meeting. They could take no action, issue a warning, modify the premises licence, temporarily suspend the licence or revoke the licence entirely.
Committee members Cllr Bill Soane, Cllr Chris Bowring and Cllr Ian Shenton will make a decision by tomorrow.