An Ealing Off Licence has had its ability to sell alcohol revoked after police and council officers discovered numerous rule breaches taking place at the premises.
Costcutter, on 48 The Mall, in Ealing was discovered to be selling nitrous oxide canisters stored in the shop area in a fridge with blacked-out windows.
This was found alongside paraphernalia associated with direct consumption including nosels and balloons. The drug was found both in large 1-litre canisters and smaller ones.
According to the police report of a visit made to the shop in May, nitrous oxide was found to be on sale in ‘large amounts’ cementing the Met’s fears that the shop was helping contribute to anti-social behaviour and illegal activity in the area.
It also found the sale of high-strength beer (which is considered to be anything over 5.5 per cent) taking place, which is against what the premises licence allows.
The council and policing authorities conclude in their reports that the sale of these kinds of substances has contributed to street drinking in the area the shop is situated in and fuelled anti-social behaviour. In council and police reports three visits to Costcutter were made firstly in May then again in July and finally in November.
On his second visit PC James Bradshaw notes that although the nitrous oxide had been removed from the sales area, it was discovered in a store room alongside drug-taking paraphernalia which he would later tell Ealing Council’s sub-licencing committee, was enough to convince him that the sale of the canisters for direct consumption was still talking place, be it in more illicit circumstances.
In his final visit, it was noted that despite multiple warnings about high-strength beer issued in the months previous, the offering of such beverages has actually expanded, although there was no longer any nitrous oxide present. Police also suggested in its report that two people, who appeared to be underage, were seen leaving the Off Licence with beer bottles, although this could not be confirmed as neither had ID.
Other concerns raised by council officers included the discovery of 667 oversized vapes, 400 illicit cigarettes, illegal rolling tobacco, and illicit Viagra pills on the premises. At the review meeting, the manager Ajeet Singh attempted to shift the blame for the breaches onto his business partner Mr Parmit Singh whom he had deputised to run the shop while he focused on other projects.
His representative Surendra Panchal attempted to sway the committee by saying that the revocation of the premises licence would be unnecessary as ‘matters had already been addressed’ and his client was now back in full control of the business. Mr Panchal placed responsibility for issues discovered by authorities at the feet at Parmit’s feet, citing Ajeet’s time in charge of the shop which started in 2012 as faultless up until that point.
His argument was that with training and more oversight, the issues of high-strength alcohol selling would be addressed, however, this began to crumble under scrutiny. The representative for the police Stephanie Bruce-Smith said that Mr Ajeet Singh’s timeline simply did not match up to events and queried why things such as high-strength beer sales had not been addressed after several warnings and numerous months.
She also suggested that if the infractions were the fault of Mr Parmit Singh as implied by Mr Panchal, why he was still working at the Off Licence and had indeed applied to become a designated premises supervisor (DPS) after the licence was put up for review, giving him even more responsibility over the business. This led to a flurry of questions from the panel.
Perhaps the councillor most taken aback by the information was Cllr Jon Ball who said: “I’m struggling a bit with this. On the one hand, what we are hearing is you have taken control of your business and are visiting it much more regularly and being very hands-on and then at the same time we are hearing that you approve of an application of a person who has been managing it in a bad way to be a DPS.”
When asked directly Mr Ajeet Singh seemed unfamiliar with the facts and dates of his interactions with Mr Parmit Singh or his own decision-making to do with the business. This led to a frustrated Cllr Amarjit Jammu, who chaired the committee, stating: “You have been in business since 2012, that’s 11 years of business experience and seriously it is not showing much from what I am seeing.”
Possibly the most damning statement came in the police’s summing up at the end of the hearing. Ms Bruce-Smith said: “After what we have heard today the police feel more concerned about the activities of the premises.”
The decision to revoke the premises licence came after a short pause with Cllr Jammu reading out the council’s position. She stated that the removal of nitrous oxide from the store did represent an improvement but that the committee was “not confident that changes were sufficient.”
She added: “In particular, the sub-licencing committee were concerned that Mr Parmit Singh was still employed by the premises.”