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Whippendale Food and Wine surrenders its alcohol licence
It took two years for Whippendale Food and Wine to convince the borough council to reinstate its alcohol licence, but only ten days to once again breach its conditions.
The shop in Whippendell Road, West Watford, which was stripped of its licence in 2010 after becoming a "magnet for street drinkers", was given another chance to sell booze in November 2012, on the condition it did not sell single cans or super strength lager, in order to shift its reputation.
However, less than a fortnight after the licence was granted, the shop sold a single can of lager to a police officer, and over the next two months, police and licensing officers successfully bought single cans and bottles of alcohol in the shop three times. In December a 15-year-old working for the police bought a quarter bottle of vodka.
In light of those breaches, a review of the shop was called for, but the owner chose to surrender the licence yesterday morning in light of the damning evidence.
As well as failed test purchases, CCTV footage showed staff at the shop furtively serving customers super-strength nine per cent lager from a "stash" under the counter.
Then, on December 31, when a licensing officer was taking photographs of miniature spirit bottles for sale in the shop, another breach, he saw a member of staff kicking cans of Carlsberg Special Brew and Skol Super Strength lager out of view underneath the counter.
The designated premises supervisor, Mounisha Srithas, was interviewed under caution by John Cockett and Jamie MacKenzie from the borough council’s licensing unit. She denied all allegations and claimed the police were "bullying" the family.
She also said the high strength beers left on display were old stock, as they didn’t have anywhere else to put them, and were not for sale. The distributor of the alcohol confirmed this was not the case.
The police ordered a review of the shop’s licence to prevent it becoming "once again ‘the shop of choice’ for the discerning street drinker" and a meeting was originally scheduled for March 6.
However, Ms Srithas asked for an adjournment as she had been in and out of hospital since December and had only just appointed a solicitor.
The meeting was adjourned until yesterday (March 12), but the owners of the shop surrendered the alcohol licence before representations could be heard.
The Whippendell Road shop’s original licence was stripped in 2010 after police presented evidence of an "appalling catalogue" of breaches, including selling to minors and drunks.
After three unsuccessful applications in 2010 and 2011, the shop owner’s daughter was eventually granted a licence in 2012, but tough conditions were put on the licence to stop street drinkers shopping there, including banning sales of single cans and bottles, and super-strength lager.
When the borough council met in November to discuss whether or not to grant Mounisha Srithas an alcohol licence, Hertfordshire police spoke strongly against the application.
At the time the shop’s lawyer Leo Charalambides called for the family to be given a "second chance".
He said: "The police are effectively saying is that there are no second chances for this family. They have entirely closed their mind to the fact that this family has been rehabilitated."
Dawn Morrish is the county’s health improvement manager for community safety and offender health.
She said: "The selling of alcohol to children is not only illegal but morally and ethically indefensible.
"Statutory homelessness is significantly worse in Watford than the England average; this is pertinent considering the levels of substance misuse amongst the homeless population.
"Clearly the licence conditions as set out in November 2012 were to specifically prevent the premises selling alcohol to vulnerable people.
"The conditions have been breached in the most brazen and irresponsible way and I fully support the application to revoke the licence for this premises."