A court has upheld Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) decision to revoke a store’s booze licence after an illegal worker was found at the site.

Alcohol can no longer be sold at Local Food and Wine after the council’s decision was backed at a magistrates' court hearing on Monday.

The court ruling is timely given the council’s licensing committee is set rule on a new application at the Whitley store next week.

Licensing officer Peter Narancic said the latest applicant would likely have no day to day control of the business, believing it would be a ‘ruse’ business run by current owner Gurmit Singh Gurwara.

RBC revoked Mr Gurwara’s licence at the Basingstoke Road store on March 29, 2018 after an illegal worker was found on the site in 2017.

While the owner was appealing the decision, his licence remained, but a new applicant came forward with a licensing application in September.

Jasnoor Vadwah’s application was rejected after suspicion was raised that he was the son of one of the directors of the business that owns the store.

Councillors, officers and the police all felt that the applicant was not genuine and would not be running the store.

The same objections have been raised by Thames Valley Police (TVP) and the council’s licensing and trading standards team to the latest application  for a licence by Inderjeet Singh Malhotra.

Mr Narancic said the new applicant had not contacted the licensing team or TVP or provided additional documentation to show he is a ‘genuine’ interested party to take over the ‘troubled’ business.

He added that the licensing regime would be put into disrepute ‘if reckless licence holders can avoid the consequences of their behaviour by simply putting the licence into someone else’s name’.

Declan Smyth, TVP officer, called for extreme scrutiny and due diligence be carried out by the licensing sub-committee to ensure this is not a ‘rebranded’ application that will undermine the four licensing objectives.

The council’s trading standards service added that no evidence has been provided regarding ownership of the operation.

The magistrates' court agreed with the council’s decision to revoke Mr Gurwara’s licence for four reasons:

  • Employment of an illegal worker discovered in June 2017 who had no right to work in the UK, was not being paid the minimum wage and being paid cash in hand thereby not paying tax and NI
  • The sale and storage of counterfeit alcohol
  • The sale and storage of counterfeit tobacco
  • The breach of licensing conditions on multiple visits. 

The court awarded costs to the council of £3,690.