CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Budget Beers could be forced to close after undercover sales sting

Shop sees alcohol licence suspended for three months after underage sales

11 January, 2018 — By William McLennan

Budget Beers in Queen’s Crescent

AN OFF-LICENCE manager says he will be forced to close after a sting on underage sales.

Mearaj Eldin said he would shut down Budget Beers, in Queen’s Crescent, after being brought before a licensing review hearing by police on Tuesday. A panel of two Labour councillors ordered a three-month suspension of his licence – a decision which Mr Eldin said would take away his livelihood and leave him dependent upon benefits to support his eight children.

“I will tell my children there is no way they will accept us in this country,” he said. “I struggle and work, pay my taxes and get abuse from customers.”

Mr Eldin, who sought asylum in the UK after fleeing violence in Afghanistan, was speaking after the meeting, which heard how the case had taken an unexpected turn when police discovered the target of their undercover operation was himself a former cadet aged just 17.

Teenage volunteers, who are part of the Met’s youth programme, were sent into Budget Beers to try and buy alcohol, but left empty-handed when they were recognised by the underage shopworker. A police report presented to licensing chiefs said: “Shortly after entering the cadets left the store and approached staff informing them that they had not attempted a test purchase as the male working in the shop was a former police cadet.” Officers later provided evidence that the 17-year-old had been working unsupervised in a shop.

Mr Eldin said the teenager had looked “like a mature guy, the way he talks, the way he acts, he doesn’t look anywhere near 17”, adding: “He looked over 25.”

Police also detailed an earlier “test purchase” in which a 16-year-old girl was able to buy a bottle of cider and another when a teenager was denied cigarettes, but was told to go outside and ask an adult to buy them for her.

Tara Modeste, who represented Mr Eldin at the hearing, said he had “gone to every extent” to comply with a list of 18 licensing conditions imposed after the sale of cider, which she described as “entirely regrettable”. The employee responsible has been sacked, she said. She presented a petition in support of Mr Eldin, signed by 85 customers, and said: “As far as they are concerned Budget Beers has always provided a great service to the community.”

Councillor Meric Apak, who chaired the licensing panel, said they had suspended the licence in order to “prevent crime and disorder” and “protect children from harm”. Discussing the reasons for their decision, Cllr Richard Olszewski added that there had been a pattern of licence breaches at the shop. He said it was “not a wilful or malicious disregard for the rules, but a far too casual approach to running a business like this”.

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