Reading shop owner at risk of losing drinks has sales hearing delayed

A shop owner has a week grace period to arrange legal representation after police raised concerns over business practices at his store in Reading.

Quais Aziz owns the Todays Express store in Duke Street, Reading town centre.

Alcohol can currently be sold from 8am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 10.30pm on Sundays.

But the licence to sell alcohol at the store could be removed after police raised concerns that licensing objectives relating to the prevention of public nuisance and crime and disorder are not being adhered to.

For his part, Mr Aziz said he was hoping to sell the business.

In comments made to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Aziz said problems attached to running the store are ‘ruining his life’, and he intends to work as a licensed taxi driver if the sale goes ahead.

At a licensing applications sub-committee meeting today (Thursday, February 2) he made an appeal for a decision to be adjourned so that he could be represented by a solicitor and a translator.

When asked why he was unable to arrange such representation for the current meeting, Mr Aziz said that he works each day from 8am-11pm at the shop.

Councillor Paul Woodward (Labour, Church) said: “Normally we’re sympathetic to people who want adjournments, but you have had a long time to sort this out, you may not agree but that’s what I think.”

Cllr Woodward was clear that the decision on the date of the next hearing lay with the committee alone, suggesting next Thursday.

There were also questions over whether his employee Mohammed Naseri would be able to attend.

Mr Aziz said: “Next week is too close. My colleague cannot work at the shop, and he’s got an appointment at hospital today.”

Cllr Woodward said: “I’m sympathetic to your employee, but really that’s something for you to sort it out.

“I think your priority absolutely is to get yourself sorted out as soon as possible.

“We may grant an adjournment but it will be up to this committee how long that will be. It’s not something where you can say ‘oh I want three weeks’.”

Mr Aziz had asked for a three-week adjournment, and also mentioned that the business is in the process of being purchased for £25,000.

However, it is understood the purchase is on hold due to the licensing review.

Ultimately, the committee decided to reschedule the review hearing for 9.30am on Friday, February 10.

The decision was made by cllrs Woodward, Sue Kitchingham (Labour, Caversham Heights) and Doug Creswell (Green, Katesgrove).

There were lingering concerns Mr Aziz’s chosen solicitor would not be able to make it to the hearing. Cllr Woodward made it clear that the next hearing will go ahead with or without Mr Aziz’s solicitor.

Addressing Mr Aziz, police licensing officer Declan Smyth said: “My advice would be to get legal representation.

“It’s very easy to do, you can do so in 24 hours, so it’s not a big ask.”

Meanwhile, council licensing officer Mark Rogers said he could provide Mr Aziz with suggested legal representation and translators if he wished.

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre