A CONVENIENCE store which sold alcohol to children days after having its licence suspended for two test purchase failures has had its licence revoked (Wednesday, June 17).
The Shop, in Chapel Road, Worthing, was hauled before Worthing licensing committee for the second time in two months, after selling age-restricted products to 16-year-olds three times.
Sussex Police had applied to have Ashish Soni’s licence revoked but faced criticism from the shop owner, who claimed police had threatened him to surrender his licence as it would be ‘cost effective’.
Agent Stuart Gibson, acting on behalf of Mr Soni, said: “He invested in a new till system against the advice of the police. They told him not to waste his money as they would get his licence revoked. It would save him money by having his licence revoked. I find that incredible.”
Mr Soni had seen his licence suspended for seven days on April 9 after Trading Standards and Sussex Police had both conducted test purchases in January.
The operations involve authorities sending in underage volunteers to buy goods, to test if they will be challenged for ID.
The Shop failed both times, failing a third just a week after the committee had ordered a seven-day suspension in April.
After the April hearing, Mr Soni became the first in the country to install a complex till system, requiring a date of birth to be entered for every restricted sale. Mr Gibson said this ‘eliminated’ any chance of future failures.
He also employed a member of staff to take the pressure of long days off him, a reason he cited for the failures. It was this new employee who failed the third test, just hours into her new role.
After the third failure, Mr Soni alleged police head of licensing Jean Irving had called him, advising him not to commit to the till system as his licence may be revoked.
She said: “I said have you purchased that till because you have until November to put it in. If you haven’t committed, you need to be aware that we will be putting strong representations to the committee to have the licence revoked.
“At no time did I pre-judge what this committee would say. I told you what our actions would be and that we would request to revoke the licence.”
Mr Soni replied, claiming she said ‘ if you want to save time and money you should come here and hand over your licence’.
She hit back: “What I said was maybe you should consider surrendering your licence as that would be possibly the most cost effective way of dealing with it as police would push for revocation. I don’t threaten people and second guess the committee.”
The committee deliberated for around 30 minutes before deciding to revoke Mr Soni’s licence - a move which could put his business under threat.
Speaking after the hearing, chairman Paul High said: “This gives out a warning to all licence holders in Worthing that underage serving of alcohol to children will not be tolerated. Hopefully the committee will not see any more applications of this kind before it in the future.”
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