Licensers refuse to grant booze licence at Lismore Circus shop amid ‘ghetto’ crime warning
Residents tells councillor 'a ghetto is building before eyes' in Gospel Oak
29 August, 2018 — By Richard Osley
A “GHETTO seems to be building up before our eyes”, licensing chiefs were warned as they were urged to halt a shop from securing an alcohol licence close to a crime hotspot in Gospel Oak.
Councillors refused to grant the licence for 5 Lismore Circus after hearing the fears of residents living close by at a meeting at the Crowndale Centre – the new Town Hall – last night (Tuesday). They had been told the open area could not be properly policed and that residents could not be expected to break up regular gatherings of street drinkers, drug dealers and youth gangs themselves.
Ward councillor Marcus Boyland provided a grim description of Lismore Circus to a panel of licensers, which he said was based on a series of messages from residents.
“I’ve had at least ten emails from residents who live above the premises and they are having a hard time,” he said. “They say things like: ‘We know Lismore Circus is completely unpoliced due to the cuts’ and ‘I think Lismore Circus will become a haven of street drinkers and more anti social behaviour’.”
He added that another constituent said drug deals were openly taking place close to the children’s play area, adding: “Someone else is saying ‘police have been called three times due to drunken youths taking helium, fighting and dealing drugs in the park and playing loud music; a ghetto seems to be building up before our eyes with no one willing to help us.”
The nuisance behaviour and crime has not been linked to the row of shops and no business has acted improperly, but objectors said adding new alcohol sales at a grocery shop would exacerbate existing problems.
“Some of the people who hang around there have mental problems, or drug addiction problems and adding alcohol to the mix does not seem like a good idea,” Cllr Boyland said.
Police had also raised an objection due to the spread of nuisance behaviour in surrounding streets, although withdrew their objections after shopkeeper Sebessan Sundaramoorthy agreed to sign up to conditions including CCTV and posting safety signs, as well as beginning alcohol sales at 8am rather than the applied for 6am.
Objectors suggested the only way the shop could sell alcohol without fuelling bad behaviour nearby, however, was to employ bouncers.
Chris Fagg, chairman of the local Safer Neighbourhood Panel, warned conditions could not be enforced and that it should not be down to residents to police Lismore Circus.
“I think residents don’t want to feel that they should be, as it were, vigilantes saying ‘this is happening’, ‘that’s happening’,” he said. “It puts an onus on the community which is actually unfair. You’ve only got to look at the crime map and you’ll see exactly where the hotspots are and they are pretty close to Lismore Circus. We don’t want residents to feel they have to complain all the time.”
Representatives for Mr Sundaramoorthy told the meeting that he had ten years of experience in previous jobs and was trained not to allow underage or inappropriate sales. They reminded the panel that the police had withdrawn an objection and agreed a list of conditions.
Mr Sundaramoorthy said his business was planned to be “half and half, an off licence and a grocery shop”, and said it would not be like the Bargain Booze chain of shops that focus on alcohol sales. Products would be capped at a strength of 5.5 percent proof, he added in a pledge not to trade beers most favoured by street drinkers.
“We will check ID [of people buying beer] and keep an eye out to see if anything is going on outside,” said Mr Sundaramoorthy. “We are going to have four cameras outside and more cameras inside. “
The panel, however, ruled the location was too sensitive and refused to grant permission for an alcohol licence. Decisions at this level can only be challenged by going to the magistrates court.
Cllr Boyland said afterwards: “It’s a sensitive location. I’m obviously pleased with the decision but we do need active shops there and I’ll keep on trying to encourage more store there, but the applicants need to know the area and the local residents.”