Licence to serve alcohol at station shop rejected
Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: LDRS partners
A newsagent in Stevenage railway station has been refused a licence to sell alcohol after police compared the proposals to selling booze in a “factory”.
City Tree Ltd, who have operated the store since July, applied to Stevenage Borough Council for a licence to serve alcohol in its store on the station’s public concourse.
However, Hertfordshire Constabulary and the British Transport Police said that it could undermine efforts to stop anti-social behaviour at the station.
Stevenage Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee made the decision on Monday, August 16.
Inspector Kevin Buck, from BTP, compared the railway station to a factory, with both responsible for dangerous equipment running throughout the day, adding: “You wouldn’t consider for one minute putting an alcohol licence into a factory, why are we doing it for a railway where trains are running at 125mph?”
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The police added that the station manager had also expressed his concerns about the sale of alcohol.
Inspector Buck said: “It’s about the anti-social behaviour, it’s about the fatalities, mental health, we’re here to safeguard people and it’s down to all of us to make the correct choice to protect and safeguard the public.”
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Sgt Chris Adshead from Herts police added that despite the work by the council and police to reduce homelessness the station remains a “gravity pull” for homeless people, and that the availability of alcohol will increase the issues already there.
Jayesh Bhatt from City Tree Ltd represented himself at the hearing, and appealed to the council to look at his record while operating the town centre Londis store, and also argued that other stations, including Hitchin, allowed the sale of alcohol on the platform, rather than the concourse.
The police and licensing officers said that the Hitchin shop served a small range of alcoholic drinks, and were at the other side of the barriers with passengers needing a ticket before entering the shop.
Mr Bhatt said that he wanted to appeal to commuters who wanted to buy a drink on the way home, and that he would pay to train his staff to work as an ‘additional set of eyes’.
The owner told councillors that without the sale of alcohol “we will struggle to continue as a viable business”, although later said that it was not necessary to the business model but restrictions meant the shop was at a disadvantage to other retailers in the town. Mr Bhatt added that safeguarding customers and the public would remain a priority.
Mr Bhatt appealed for “a level of flexibility and negotiation” to allow for the sale of alcohol in a safe way, whether that was restrictions on the type of product or hours of sale.
However, the council’s licensing committee decided to refuse the licence on the grounds of public safety.
City Tree Ltd has 21 days to appeal the decision.