Shop refused licence – despite community awards

AN AWARD-WINNING shop has been refused a licence – after its previous one was revoked and claims of nitrous oxide and other substances being sold.

Hundreds of people living near Acre Street Mini Market in Denton signed a petition to allow permission, citing how big a part of the community it is.

In fact, its services meant it was recognised by both local MP Andrew Gwynne and the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester, Eamonn O’Neal.

But Tameside Council licensing officers said no to the latest application by Shabana Kousar.
And a string of breaches after the last licence was ended were detailed at a hearing on
Monday, December 6.

Head of licensing, Michael Robinson, told how Mrs Kousar’s husband, Murtza Hussain’s licence was revoked in September 2017 for ‘a prolonged period of non-compliance’ lasting more than
two years.

And on June 15 that year, a large quantity of illicit tobacco and 600 nitrous oxide gas canisters were seized.

Mr Robinson told how the shop was found to be selling alcohol in February 2018 and an undercover test purchase on March 9 that year saw someone served with a bottle of wine.
On June 4, a large fridge full of alcohol was found, along with some in a stock room.

And after complaints to Tameside Council the store was selling cigarettes and illicit tobacco, quantities were seized in March 2019 and March 2020.

In June 22 of this year, tobacco obtained from a back room was sold to a test purchaser in a trading standards operation.

Police officer Martin Thorley’s evidence also claimed e-cigarettes were sold to Year 7 students and in May this year, the sale of vapes, tobacco, alcohol. cannabis and THC to school children.

In a statement, he said: “As with other areas in Tameside, Denton suffers from issues with on street drinking and other alcohol related anti-social behaviour.

“This area already suffers reports of on street drinking and alcohol related anti-social behaviour. It is my belief that another licensed premise in the vicinity of this area would lead to increases of on street drinking and alcohol related anti-social behaviour.

“It is my belief that the operator involved in the running of this premise is not capable of promoting the licensing objectives. Offences and intelligence show that he is complicit in unlawful sales which do risk the health and wellbeing of both children and adults alike.

“To allow the premises to sell alcohol will result in a risk to children being harmed, lead to an increase in alcohol related incidents in the area and will cause greater disturbance to the residents who live in very close proximity to the premises.”

Mrs Kousar insisted the business will be run by her and, ‘I’m willing to take responsibility and work hard. I’ll take it all on by myself and the business is strictly mine.’

She added: “I’m in control of the business, I run the shop and make sure everything is fine.

“A lot of things have improved, I’ve been working with everyone around us to make things better.

“I’d love to work with you regularly and improve many things. We’ll make it a lot better for everyone.”

Mrs Kousar’s solicitor, Anthony Horne, insisted: “Things were very badly wrong at the shop. Things have improved.

“Residents on each and every local street say they support this application. It was clear there was complete intransigence on the part of the authorities – they didn’t want this granting whatsoever.
“To a certain extent I can understand that but things have moved on.

“We have a premises that can serve the local people. There has been noticeable improvement.”

However, Tameside Council’s Speakers Panel (Liquor Licensing) committee decided to turn down the application.

Chair, Cllr Dolores Lewis, said: “It’s not for the panel to make any findings in relation to guilt or innocence of any criminal activity that may have taken place.

“Although there is concern in relation to a number of reports that have been received since May 2018 in relation to illicit tobacco and alcohol on the premises, together with reports of nitrous oxide being sold.

“The panel was also concerned that Mrs Kousar had denied being involved in the sale of illicit tobacco in June, having told us she is the only female who works in the shop. We were also concerned she didn’t accept that nitrous oxide was found on the premises in 2019.

“And the panel in its deliberations held regard to the fact a high school is located close to the premises and the concern of underage sales taking place.

“At a previous panel hearing in 2018, Mrs Kousar confirmed Mr Hussain would have no involvement in the business going forward. We weren’t satisfied Mrs Kousar made any submissions that she could promote the licensing objectives.

“It has no confidence the objectives would be upheld.”

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