A village store owner admitted breaching his alcohol licensing conditions while his licence was being revoked by South Holland District Council on Wednesday.
Arumugam Sarankan, admitted that while he was in the council chamber answering a review called by Lincolnshire Police, his shop City Stores, on Bridge Road in Sutton Bridge, was open and manned by an employee without a personal licence to sell alcohol.
The committee was carrying out a licence review after a man at the store served two underage children and was later found to be an illegal worker during a Lincolnshire Police spot check on August 24, 2021.
Lincolnshire Police’s Alcohol Licensing Manager Sergeant Kim Enderby said 14 stores had been tested and Mr Sarankan’s shop was the only premises where two 15-year-old volunteers were able to buy a bottle of pink Hooch despite being asked for ID and saying they had left it at home.
Investigations found the Sri Lankan worker’s visa had expired in 2014, and he was in the country illegally. He was arrested and transported to custody for immigration checks.
The worker, who claimed he was a relation of Mr Sarankan, said had been working at the shop since November 2020 and lived in the premises. Mr Sarankan denied he was a relation.
“We have serious concerns in relation to what we found, we have got a wholesale breach of license conditions, an illegal worker with no reasonable explanation and then we have sales of alcohol to two children,” said Sergeant Kim Enderby, told the committee meeting.
Police found no written authorisation to the shop’s workers for alcohol sales, no incident and refusals log, no age verification policy, no staff training and the store was not operating challenge 25. CCTV did not conform to the force’s specification and Mr Sarankan was said to spend a lot of time away from the store.
Despite reassurances in the meantime the situation had improved, a further police visit on October 12 again found a worker on their own and issues with access to incident and training records. Police also failed to line up some of the records with CCTV – despite accounting for an incorrect time record – with Sgt Enderby suggesting that some recorded incidents were not “genuine”.
Mr Sarankan and his representative, Suresh Kanapathi, from Arka Licensing consultants, did not dispute criminal activity had taken place at the store, nor that his employees did not hold personal licences. However, they did not think they were breaching conditions concerning CCTV, incident refusals logs, training and age verification policy.
Mr Sarankan took over the shop in December 2020 but the premises licence was previously reviewed in similar circumstances in 2011.
Mr Kanapathi told members it was a small family business and that Mr Sarankan handled most matters including going to the cash and carry, which was why he was away from the store.
They told councillors there had been a “comprehensive” package of training and organising going on and that they were now up to scratch.
Members were also told a trained person was due to start but had not begun at the time.
However, Mr Sarankan then confirmed that while he was at the meeting a worker was still at the shop without a premises licence.
The committee concluded there had been breach and the evidence provided did not prove staff had been adequately trained or that underage individuals would be challenged.
“The panel have no confidence in the management of the premises and that the conditions of the premises licence will be adhered to in the future,” said chairman Councillor Henry Bingham.
Speaking following the meeting, Sgt Enderby said: “It’s a really strong decision by the council, and sends a really strong deterrent message, both to the business that we were here with today and to any other businesses that considering employing illegal workers because it has serious consequences both for the person who’s employed and for legitimate businesses who were there competing against.”