Future of Polish supermarket hangs in the balance after licensing hearing

Posted on - 3rd August, 2016 - 7:45pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Crime, Lancashire Police, Preston Council, Ribbleton
The Europa is in Ribbleton Lane Pic: Google

The Europa is in Ribbleton Lane Pic: Google

The booze licence review of Polish off licence Europa Delikatesy saw councillors hear about a ‘significant increase’ in anti-social behaviour near the shop.

The application for the review was submitted by Lancashire Police following a list of incidents around the premises, including public nuisance, crime and disorderly behaviour.

The hearing saw three councillors, including Chairman Peter Moss, Harry Seddon and Brian Rollo, assess the submission, taking into account the arguments put forward by the parties of the licence holder, Lancashire police and the council Trading Standards department.

The hearing commenced with Preston City Council’s Licence Manager, Mike Thorpe, introduced the case.

Europa’s licence to sell alcohol and tobacco was issued on 3rd June 2014, and the licence holder Mr Sabah Mohammed took over ownership in February 2016.

Related: Polish off licence faces booze licence review

Since then Police claim to have seen a significant increase in incidents directly around the shops location.

Lancashire Police said: “There have been no complaints by the public prior to the shop gaining its licence in 2014.

“Since then there have been complaints such as litter, empty alcohol containers, urination in doorways, defecation, threats to local business owners, and congregations of people drinking alcohol.”

The police stated that their main concern if the licence was permitted would be that things would slip back to how they were and whether Europa management would be capable to deal with the problem.

The licence holder’s solicitor, Mr Anderson, questioned police on their comments and proceeded to present CCTV footage, only introduced to the board that morning, from the 26th July which appeared to show a man crossing a road near the off licence shortly before police approached a male on the car park of next to Europa who was asked to move on.

A view of the licensing hearing

A view of the licensing hearing

However, police were unable to confirm if the footage showed the male they spoke with.

Nearby businesses speak out

Evidence was also put forward by local businessmen Mr Robinson and Managing Director of Fleet Services.

Mr Robinson, who has operated a business next to Europa for 20 years, spoke about how there has been no problem in the area before Europa opened.

He said: “I get customers complaining, groups congregate on my car park, people are getting intimated. It’s a 24hour problem.

“I have to clean the car park every day, there are smashed bottles, urinating, volumes of beers and spirits.

“I pay a lot of money in council tax and its becoming detrimental to us trying to make a living. It’s killing my business.”

The Managing Director of Fleet Services, a business that operates directly behind Europa, reiterated Mr Robinson’s comments.

He said “It started with rubbish problems, and we started getting rats which I have never seen before.

“I had to report it the Environmental Health. A member of my staff was forced to confront the group sitting on a car bonnet, to which one person pulled out a six-inch knife on him. He had to run back inside and I reported it the police.”

Europa responds

The Police asked Mr Mohammad what how he would try to resolve issues if the licence was regained.

Mr Mohammad said: “I would clean and search all around the area every night, even if people are not buying from my shop.

“For parking issues, I would put a clamp on the wall and have spoken to the landlord already about doing this.

“And I would give warnings to groups who are hanging around, and then report to the police.”

Another point put forward by Fleet Service’s Managing Director was the price Mr Mohammad was selling alcohol for, leading to a large number of customers buying from the shop at prices below the legal minimum price.

Mr Mohammad responded by saying: “I sell for what I want, it doesn’t matter to me if I lose money. I have competition.”

A spokesperson for the Environmental Health team claimed that local businesses complained of waste, litter, and urination resulting in them having to send cleaning services to the area to deal with many of the problems.

A Trading Standards spokesperson also contributed to the hearing, stating that in early 2015, complaints about illegal tobacco being sold was made by a local retailer and after inspections it was discovered that in February 2015 a total of 11 vodka products and 131 tobacco substances were seized, on top of two test purchases being carried out which resulted in the selling of tobacco in underage testing.

It was also confirmed that tax was not being paid on certain products leading to the previous licence holder being prosecuted in an ongoing trial in September, and when Trading Standards met with Mr Mohammad to handover documents, he told them he was very close with the previous owner, like a family.

The board heard arguments out forward by all parties and Chair councillor Peter Moss described how the board needed to know whether it is a public issue or a customer issue.

There are currently ongoing discussions about the future licence of the premises to sell alcohol and tobacco, no decision was made at the meeting.

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