Published on July 25th, 2011 | by Dean Carr
Shop ordered to shut for month by licensing panel
AN OFF-LICENCE has been forced to shut temporarily after selling black-market alcohol.
Ali Baba’s, in Manchester Road, Swindon, has been handed a 28-day suspension order by the council after it was told about huge quantities of illegal tobacco and alcohol being seized in raids.
It also came under fire for serving gallons of alcoholic drinks to children as young as 13.
A three-strong licensing panel heard how fake Jacob’s Creek wine had been found in the shop in March. The bottles were so obviously counterfeit that the word “Australia” was spelled incorrectly on the bottle.
It also heard that officers found a suitcase full of illicit tobacco hidden behind a fridge in a raid last December, along with around 1,100 litres of beer, wine and spirits with no excise duty.
Opening the meeting, licensing head Lionel Starling said: “The matters before you are very serious in nature. You’re used to dealing with the situation of test purchases that have failed, that have resulted in a review being brought.
“In this instance, there’s a case where three boys, aged between 13 and 15, entered the shop and came out laden with very substantial quantities of alcohol.”
The officer who searched them, in October 2010, found 11.5 litres of cider and two litres of beer, the meeting heard.
The shop had come under fire for selling counterfeit alcohol under its past owner.
New boss 31-year-old Ali Sari, who bought the store for £25,000 last August, made impassioned pleas for leniency.
He said: “I got two kids. I want to make their life good. I don’t want to go on dole.
“I got hands, I got legs, I got brain. I can work.”
Then, rising to his feet at the end, he said: “First, I didn’t know this shop had problems. Second, I didn’t know the business was like this. Third, if I done anything before please can you give me, for my two babies, a last chance, a big golden chance? That’s all I want for me.”
Mr Sari, of Manchester Road, told the panel at the Civic Offices that the second stash of black market cigarettes found in a corridor at the back of the shop in a second raid in April were not his.
He said he did not know where the fake Jacob’s Creek wine had come from. The panel took two hours to decide his fate on Friday.
They said that, in 21 days’ time, his licence to trade would be suspended for four weeks.
When he reopened, he must also train himself and his staff, keep a log of who was working there and how long, and put in proper CCTV coverage, the panel ordered.
Breaching these rules could result in a £20,000 fine.
Trading standards officer Russell Sharland said: “That’s a strong warning for anybody else who may be tempted.”
Mr Sari said: “How am I going to pay bills for 28 days? I think I don’t deserve this decision. You need to know about a business before going in. I didn’t know. I’m learning about it.
“I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent, how I’m going to pay my business rates, my kids, my missus. I don’t know.”
Source : This is Wiltshire