Letchworth GC shop owner sold wine to underage customer
A SHOP owner sold a bottle of white wine to a 16-year-old girl during an undercover operation by consumer watchdogs. Hitesh Chandarana, of Grange Wine Store, The Parade, Southfields, Letchworth GC pleaded guilty at Stevenage Magistrates Court on Monday t
A SHOP owner sold a bottle of white wine to a 16-year-old girl during an undercover operation by consumer watchdogs.
Hitesh Chandarana, of Grange Wine Store, The Parade, Southfields, Letchworth GC pleaded guilty at Stevenage Magistrates' Court on Monday to the underage sale.
He was fined �400 and ordered to pay costs of �317.62, plus a �15 victim surcharge.
The volunteer made the purchase on August 20 last year, a month after her 16th birthday.
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Chandarana, 30, of Howard Drive, Letchworth GC, is the main partner in the business, the joint premises licence holder and designated premises supervisor. Yet he failed to challenge the volunteer about her age.
He put it down to an honest mistake, but admitted that he would have refused the sale had he adhered to a Challenge 21 policy - which requires shopkeepers to request ID from anyone who looks under the age of 21.
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The bench heard that Chandarana's long working hours meant that he refused an invitation by Hertfordshire Trading Standards to attend an underage sales seminar.
Although he had a refusals' book, he had not been using it and was unable to show any evidence of the age checks he had carried out and the young people he had refused.
The court heard that a licence review meeting had also been held as a result of the same sale, at which it was decided to include 18 new conditions on the licence. Chandarana now employs a Challenge 25 policy, keeps records of training and all age checks or refusals in a book and recently undertook the National Certificate for Designated Premises Supervisors.
This was the second time Chandarana had sold alcohol to a Trading Standards volunteer. He had also refused Trading Standards volunteers seven times since he took over the business in 2005.
Keith Emsall, county council executive member for community safety and culture, said: "There is no excuse for licensees, especially now we have launched the Validate scheme in this part of the county providing 16 to 18-year-olds with a proof of age cards. Let this be a warning to any other shops who might think they can flout the law - underage sales will not be tolerated.
"If you are a shopkeeper, ask yourself whether it is worth the risk - you could not only be fined and have your licence suspended, but you are also putting your livelihood in jeopardy.