St Albans store appeals against licensing conditions imposed by the district council

A CONVENIENCE store owner appealed against the council’s decision to suspend its alcohol licence for two weeks and impose a number of conditions after being caught selling alcohol to children.

Weymans in Cottonmill Lane, St Albans, was the subject of a district council licensing review in the summer after it was found to be selling alcohol to underage youths in a test sale carried out by police who had concerns about the shop.

St Albans licensing officer Pc John Cooper sent a 15-year-old volunteer to the premises who was able to purchase a can of John Smith’s bitter without question from the 22-year-old woman serving behind the counter.

As well as an �80 fine for the sales assistant, store owner Neil Weyman was banned from selling alcohol for two weeks while he introduced a number of measures to prevent a repeat of events in the future.

While Mr Weyman, who has been in business for 21 years, didn’t dispute that alcohol was supplied to a minor, he appeared in court yesterday (Wednesday) to ask magistrates to revoke certain conditions and the suspension imposed by the district council, labelling it “disproportionate.”

Represented by his father Brian, he claimed that the ban would cripple his business and that a number of conditions were unfair, namely the labelling of all alcohol so police can trace where it is bought, CCTV being moved into the shop from the living quarters and a requirement for the licence holder to serve behind the counter between 4pm and 8pm.

He raised concerns that labelling all alcohol could land him in trouble if youths had stolen drinks or obtained them through a person legally allowed to buy alcohol.

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But Pc Cooper, whose concerns were first raised after a concerned mother reported that her son had obtained alcohol from the store back in October 2009, explained that the measure was to enable police to trace the sale of alcohol and then advise shops to be vigilant.

Brian Weyman, who helps to run the business, said that his son, who has another store in Redbourn, could not be expected to be in the St Albans shop every day to serve and that getting all his staff personal alcohol licences would be too costly.

He also said that the CCTV was currently positioned in the living quarters so that sensitive information such as pin numbers could not be seen, but Pc Cooper said all staff should have access to the equipment and training on it so any disks could be burned urgently.

Nicholas Maggs, representing the district council, urged the magistrates to uphold all of the conditions in order to protect children from harm and prevent any alcohol being sold to minors again.

The magistrates chaired by Roger Stephens decided to reduce the alcohol suspension to seven days in order for the measures to be implemented and changed one condition so that the personal licence holder has to be on site between 4pm and 8pm rather than serving behind the counter. Costs were awarded to the district council.