Garage bidding for late-night alcohol licence fails under-age test
A failed under-age test sale put garage owners on the back foot as they applied for a 24-hour alcohol licence.
The application for the 24-hour licence was already with Brighton and Hove City Council when a 16-year-old under bought a bottle of cider.
The test sale at the Park and Shop garage in Falmer Road, Woodingdean, was carried out on Thursday March 14.
It was the first time that the shop had failed a test sale in its 18-year history at the site, a council licensing panel was told.
The panel, made up of councillors Adrian Morris, Julie Cattell and Lynda Hyde, were told that a member of staff on their second day in the job received a fixed penalty fine.
Both Sussex Police and the council licensing team objected to the licence application, saying that there was a city-wide blanket policy against allowing new off-sales licences later than 11pm.
Sussex Police said that it did not agree with promoting a 24-hour drinking culture in Brighton and Hove.
The police force’s barrister Tim Moore said that if the late-night licence was granted then the shop could act as a magnet for people from a wider area.
He said: “Through plexi glass it is difficult to establish the age of a customer.
“Many customers will be arriving by car. You may get to see the driver who presents themselves but it is difficult to see who is in the car.
“The driver is sober but may have three passengers who are not.”
Park and Shop’s barrister Sarah Clover said that changing the hours would not make under-age sales more likely and described the idea of drivers buying for under-age or drunk passengers as “pure fantasy”.
She said that the 24-hour licence would match the opening hours of the premises, in line with government guidelines.
She also said that the council’s “matrix” of licence restrictions, based on the type of premises and the location, was “unusual”.
Ms Clover questioned whether it was lawful. The council’s legal adviser said that it was.
Ms Clover said: “The responsible authorities are presenting this as a fait accompli.
“People are not drinking in public. They are purchasing alcohol to drink before they go out or after they go home.
“There is no suggestion of a 24-hour cycle of drinking in the street, outside the premises or on the forecourt.
“It is not a drink-drive risk as people do not sit outside supermarkets or on garage forecourts and drink.”
Park and Shop has 49 premises nationally and offered to make sure all staff had “personal licence holder” training and to make the shop subject to strict “serve legal” spot checks.
The store said that it already operated a voluntary “Challenge 25” policy – asking for identification if buyers appear to be under 25 – and it did not sell high-alcohol beers and ciders in single cans.
The licensing panel, which sat at Hove Town Hall is expected to make its decision about the application within five working days.