Reading store banned from drinks sales after police complain

A string of damning accusations over the alleged handling of stolen goods, anti-social behaviour, and mismanagement were levelled at the owner and staff at the Today’s Express store in Duke Street, Reading town centre.

Thames Valley Police and the council’s licensing team had appealed to revoke the licence of the store, arguing it would help prevent crime and disorder and better protect the public.

They therefore applied to revoke the licence for the store in a review hearing held on Friday, February 10, which was attended by the current owner Quais Aziz.

Police officers accused Mr Aziz of mismanagement by selling alcohol to street drinkers, causing a public nuisance.

READ MORE: Police call for ban on shop selling alcohol over rule break accusations

Police licensing officer PC Simon Wheeler said: “We have people openly begging at that property, we have evidence of sales to drinks to those individuals, and them consuming the drinks nearby.”

Officers also accused the shop of handling stolen goods, particularly drinks and Red Bull cans.

However this was denied by Mr Aziz’s legal representative Bill Donne of Silver Fox Consultants who got the police to concede they do not have specific evidence of handling stolen goods.

An investigation into the handling of stolen goods is ongoing.

Evidence was compiled for the hearing during four visits by council and police officers, however the police complained that poor CCTV management meant collecting evidence was made difficult.

Mr Donne conceded that management of CCTV was “a mess” and said its timings were inaccurate.

On the sale of alcohol to street drinkers, he pointed out that drinking is not a licensable activity, and Mr Aziz could not be held responsible for the behaviour of his customers.

While police had argued that Mr Aziz should not be selling single cans of alcohol, Mr Donne stated there is no legal requirement restricting such sales.

Mr Donne said: “In summary, is my client holder the best operator? I would say no, is he as non-compliant as the council and police say? I would say no. He is on the way to being neat and tidy.”

Ultimately, the licensing committee in charge of the decision chose to revoke the licence to sell alcohol.

Mr Aziz previously said the store is in the process of being sold for £25,000, with the prospective new owner apparently being present at the review hearing.

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

Speaking on behalf of Mr Aziz and the prospective new owner after the meeting, Mr Donne said the result was disappointing and an appeal is being considered.

The appeal must be lodged within 21 days of the notice of the revocation of the licence being served.

Once an appeal is triggered, the business can carry on under its current licence conditions until a final decision is made at Magistrates Court.

The licensing committee was made up of councillors Paul Woodward (Labour, Church) Sue Kitchingham (Labour, Caversham Heights) and Doug Creswell (Green, Katesgrove).

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre