Bedford shop allowed to keep alcohol licence despite sales to under age children

A shop in an area said to be rife with anti social behaviour and drunks fighting in the street has been allowed to keep its alcohol licence despite twice selling booze to children.

Shop in problem area allowed to keep alcohol licence despite sales to under age children

Lamberts in Midland Road

Lamberts in Midland Road

A shop in an area said to be rife with anti social behaviour and drunks fighting in the street has been allowed to keep its alcohol licence despite twice selling booze to children.

At a meeting on Monday (June 24), Lamberts in Midland Road, Bedford, agreed to a list of conditions to keep its licence, including stopping the sale of certain brands of alcohol that are popular with “street drinkers”.

Local resident and campaigner, barrister Karen Boyes, told Bedford Borough Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee: “The licensee is not a fit and proper person. On at least two occasions I have seen drunk people staggering, clutching cans, as they head to the check-out.

“They were allowed to queue jump and purchase items. It is quite distressing when somebody is that drunk. It is reprehensible that they are being given more alcohol in the state they are in.

“They are buying high-strength cider, and on request are being provided with plastic beakers so they can share it out.” She added that the area suffered from drinking, fighting and women being “insensible” in the street.

However, Lamberts’ barrister, Leo Charalambidis, said he was “embarrassed” on behalf of Bedfordshire Police for a “poverty in evidence” to back up their claim that “the area is synonymous with crime and Anti Social Behaviour, much of it associated with the consumption of alcohol.”

No data was provided to support the assertion.

The police were however supported in their case to revoke Lamberts’ licence by both the trading standards and licensing departments of Bedford Borough Council.

Bedfordshire Police, represented by PC Darren Welch, applied to revoke the premises licence, which is held by Mahalingam Pongaimaran.

He said two test purchases, involving two 15 year old police cadets on October 5, 2018, and two volunteers, aged 15 and 16 on November 22, 2018, were based on local concerns.

“We do not carry out test purchases if there are no concerns, we don’t have the capacity for that,” he said. He also said because the area is covered by an impact order strictly controlling alcohol licences was also evidence of concern.

“Home Office guidance is that it is unacceptable to sell alcohol to children,” said PC Welch. “Further measures in our view would not have made much difference to whether the test purchases were made or not.”

It was not contested that on October 5 the teenagers bought two bottles of Stella Artois without being challenged, and on November 22, a bottle of Echo Falls wine was purchased, again without the teenagers being challenged by staff at the shop.

The committee of three councillors heard that two £90 fixed penalty fines for selling alcohol to under aged children have been paid.

Mr Charalambidis suggested a series of conditions to ease concerns about anti social behaviour. He also said staff at the shop had received training, and the fact they had employed a barrister to support them indicated that they were taking the issue seriously.

“The cumulative impact of alcohol in the area is not an issue for this review,” said Mr Charalambidis. “You should attempt to find a solution to the issue at hand.”

He argued that extra conditions on the licence formed the “most proportional course of action” for the committee. These would include not selling “ciders that have never seen an apple” and other brands to be listed and which “everyone knows”.

“The shop has been a part of the local community for a long time, and was valued by some of the community,” he added.

Mr Charalambidis contended that the evidence he provided was “balanced” while that of the police and others was “extreme”.

Following an adjournment after the round table discussion sub-committee chairman, Cllr Alison Field-Foster said, the committee had decided “not to revoke the licence, subject to an agreement to conditions.”