Credit: Tower Hamlets Council
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Roman Road convenience store to stay open after selling alcohol to underaged shopper

Tower Hamlets Council has given Mannat Supermarket its ‘first and last chance’ after selling a gin and tonic can to a 14-year-old.

An East London shop has been allowed to stay open after a child bought a gin and tonic without being asked for her ID or challenged for proof of age during a test purchase last year.

Tower Hamlets council’s licensing sub-committee has given Mannat Supermarket on Roman Road a ‘first and last chance’ after two girls, aged 12 and 14, were not challenged to show proof of age during an underage sales test purchase in August 2022.

According to trading standards, the eldest child was able to buy a 250ml can of Gordon’s pink gin and tonic (ABV 5 per cent) from the shop without being challenged for her proof of age, while the 12-year-old girl also wasn’t asked for her proof of age.

Trading standards then informed the premises licence holder and designated premises supervisor (DPS), Harmon Singh Grover that he had just sold a can of gin and tonic to an underage person.

When confronted about why he didn’t ask the children for their proof of age, Mr Grover said the shop was busy and he was the only worker on the shop floor.

According to council documents, Mr Grover admitted to trading standards he had never read the premises licence and did not know what any of the conditions on it were, he also was unaware of Challenge 21 or Challenge 25.

Following the incident, trading standards submitted a review of the premise licence to Tower Hamlets council and demanded the shop’s license be revoked, which was also supported by the licensing authority and the Met Police.

During a Tower Hamlets council licensing sub-committee meeting on Tuesday, June 6, PC Mark Perry of Tower Hamlets police licensing said: “We argue the revocation of the licence is the only cause of action available to you, as harsh and severe as it is, simply because of the nature of the offence and a lack [from] the premises licence holder to uphold their responsibilities and duties.”

Surendra Panchal, who was representing Mr Grover and speaking on his behalf at the meeting, said he was a dad-of-two whose family depends on his business and that he took a loan out to buy the shop but wouldn’t be able to afford it if the shop was to close.

Mr Panchal said: “He has now complied, he has done everything that is required by the licensing act, he does apologise for what happened when the shop was very busy.

“He understands that he’s not supposed to sell alcohol to anyone underage… what happened on that particular day, he is very apologetic about it.”

Mr Panchal added: “It would be very harsh today if the licence was revoked.”

He explained that Mr Grover wanted another member of staff to take over his role as DPS and that if his shop was allowed to stay open, a ‘short suspension’ of the premises would be appropriate to allow for further training and for the appointment of a new DPS.

Mr Panchal said since September 2022, Mr Grover had logged all refusals of sales of alcohol in a book, with the most recent refusal being only two days before (June 4), and showed a physical copy of the logbook to the licensing sub-committee.

He added: [Mr Grover] got really nervous and on that particular day it got so busy, he’s very apologetic on what he did but he said never again in his life would he ever serve anybody without asking for their ID.”

After hearing from both sides, the licensing sub-committee discussed their decision in private and a decision was later published online which said the sub-committee had given Mr Grover and his shop ‘a first and last chance’.

The decision read: “Whilst we cannot bind any future sub-committee to a particular course of action, in the event of future problems this decision is likely to be part of the documentation before that sub-committee and will be given appropriate weight.”

As a result the licensing sub-committee chose to suspend the premises licence for one month and removed Mr Grover as the DPS.

Other conditions include having a Challenge 25 scheme inside the shop which must be displayed ‘prominently’ as well as regularly training all staff on the sale of alcohol and the prevention of underage sales.

Speaking to Roman Road LDN, Mr Grover said: ‘It was our mistake and we accept that our alcohol licence will be suspended for one month. All our staff have been trained and are now aware of the Challenge 25 scheme.’

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