Ealing Council have revoked the licence of a long-standing off licence in Hanwell after it found multiple breaches of licencing objectives and conditions including the presence of strong alcohol on the premises, the failure to provide CCTV footage when requested and the discovery of counterfeit cigarettes by one of its officers. The Best Wine on Uxbridge Road has been licensed under Pritpal Singh Madhan since 2014 while the store has been an Off Licence in Hanwell for 60 years.
The verdict came after recommendations from Abbi Shaw, Safer Communities Team Leader and Bob Dear of the Ealing Council’s Licensing Compliance & Enforcement Team to revoke the premises licence, with chair of the hearing Cllr Anthony Kelly saying the panel “had no choice” but to take away the shop’s ability to sell alcohol. Before the final decision was passed down by the committee, Mr Madhan pleaded with the council to give him “one last chance.”
In front of the committee, Mr Madhan admitted he had made mistakes by storing strong beer on shelves and fridges in The Best Wine but said that it was only there temporarily before being moved onto another shop he owned in Southall. However, Mr Dear contested that the owner knew what he was doing and had in fact hidden drinks with a higher percentage of alcohol behind cans of weaker booze in an attempt to dupe inspectors.
Mr Dear was also the council officer who discovered five packs of counterfeit cigarettes behind the counter of the premises. Mr Madhan explained he received the non-duty paid cigarettes from a friend and was only storing them in the shop, not selling them. Again he admitted he had made a mistake but said it was a one-off occasion, an explanation that did nothing to convince the enforcement officer or ultimately the panel.
The lack of CCTV footage provided to the panel was also a concern and broke the conditions of The Best Wines’s licence. Mr Madhan said that when police and council representatives had come to inspect the business as part of regular enforcement in the area, the screen showing the feed of the CCTV was broken but the cameras were still recording.
However, a frustrated Cllr Kelly said that point was irrelevant because Ms Shaw had requested footage from the cameras which she had never received. He told Mr Madhan: “We are here today without CCTV so for all intents and purposes it has not worked.”
Although not cited explicitly in the council’s decision to revoke the licence, the panel did dedicate a large part of the hearing to cases of Mr Madhan and his employees selling booze to street drinkers, whose presence in Hanwell is seen as a major issue. The panel seemed unmoved by Mr Madhan’s attempt to prevent serving street drinkers by plastering his shop with signs reading “‘we do not sell to street drinkers”.
Mr Dear and Ms Shaw both contended that they had witnessed Mr Madhan and his employees selling to “clearly intoxicated” people, saying they had to intervene on several occasions to prevent the sale of single cans to drunk customers. Mr Madhan responded that it is not always easy to tell from behind the counter who is drunk and who isn’t and insisted that The Best Wine getting its licence taken away would not prevent street drinking, stating “they can it [alcohol] from anywhere.”
Mr Madhan’s brother told LDRS ahead of the review that he had been assaulted by street drinkers who grew violent when refused service. He told LDRS: “Me and my brother [Pritpal] were here and a street drinker came in and pushed me and spit at me. He said ‘why won’t you serve me?’ and said I would not serve him and he punched me. I called the police, but what did they do? They came and took the video clip [CCTV] and after that nothing no message, no reply.”
Mr Madhan reiterated this point in the meeting but it seemed to do little to mitigate the concerns of the licensing committee. In his closing statement, the owner’s representative Surendra Panchal said a decision to revoke the license would “destroy his [client’s] business,” with around 90 per cent of the shop’s stock consisting of alcoholic beverages.
While delivering the panel’s verdict Cllr Kelly said that it recognised the difficulties of operating an Off Licence in Hanwell in the context of issues surrounding anti-social behaviour. However, it seemed that the conclusions of the three councillors on the panel Cllr Kelly, Cllr Jon Ball and Cllr Praveen Anand were similar to something that Ms Shaw had iterated earlier in the meeting – The Best Wine has helped increase anti-social behaviour in the area.