Agenda item

Co-op, 245 Brixton Road, London SW9 6LJ (Vassall Ward)

Minutes:

Presentation by the Licensing Officer

 

The Sub-Committee was informed that this was an application for a variation to the current premises licence. The Sub-Committee’s attention was drawn to Chapters 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10 of the Statutory Guidance, and to Chapter 5, Policies 1, 7 and 8, Appendices 1, 3, 5, 6 and 10 of the Statement of Licensing Policy, as the ones particularly relevant to this application. The options available to the Sub-Committee were set out in paragraphs 5.7 and 5.8 of the report on pages 15 and 16.

 

The Licensing Officer confirmed:

 

  • Under the Licensing Act 2003, a variation application was submitted on 10 June 2019 in respect of Co-op, 245 Brixton Road. 
  • The application sought to vary the premises licence for the sale of alcohol on Monday to Sunday 06:00-23:00. 
  • Since the report had been published, the applicant had amended the hours for the sale of alcohol on Monday to Sunday to 07:00-23:00.
  • The opening hours for the premises Monday to Sunday 06:00-23:00 remain unchanged.
  • Three representations were originally received against the application from the Licensing Authority, Metropolitan Police Service and a local councillor.  The representations were based on all four of the licensing objectives (Prevention of Public Nuisance, Prevention of Crime and Disorder, Public Safety and Protection of Children from Harm).  Details could be found on pages 47 to 51 of the agenda papers.
  • As a result of the applicant amending its hours to 07:00, the Metropolitan Police Service had subsequently withdrawn their representation.
  • In attendance for the application was Mr Richard Arnot, agent for the applicant and Miss Bina Patel, for the Licensing Authority.  The local councillor was unable to attend the hearing.

 

Presentation by the Applicant

 

Mr Richard Arnot, agent representing Pasquale, Local Area Manager for the Co-op, informed the Sub-Committee that:

 

  • The Co-op was the sixth largest retailer in the UK with 78,000 people employed in over 2,000 stores and was the world’s largest consumer co-operative that consisted of 8.2m members.
  • The premises located at 245 Brixton Road opened in December 2016 and had 19 employees.  Three staff members were personal licence holders. 
  • All staff received training in relation to the Licensing Act and details were supplied in the supporting documentation provided.
  • New employees received a four-hour induction training and were required to sit an exam.  If they failed the exam they would not be able to work.  The premises also operated a ‘buddy’ system for new employees which enabled them to work alongside an experienced member of staff.  
  • A lock-down system also operated at the premises to prevent new employees selling alcohol regardless if they successfully passed their exams or their buddy was happy with them.  Lock-down lasted for four weeks they were only released from this period and allowed to sell alcohol if management were content.
  • Regardless of an employee’s length of service, they were required to undertake two refresher training per year and complete an exam.  If the premises was not happy with an employee’s performance they returned to lock-down. 
  • The Co-op provided assistance in the community.  The premises at Brixton supported to various organisations such as community hubs, the Friends of Ruskin Park and the Oval Learning Cluster.  Every year the Co-op donated 1% of the profit it received from its own products to organisations nationally and last November £19m was donated.  
  • At this premises, alcohol represented between 10-15% of its turnover with 85% profit mostly achieved from food produce.
  • On referring Members to page 1 of the second despatch agenda papers, he made reference to paragraph 10.1 of the Secretary of State’s Guidance which stated that:

“Shops… should normally be free to provide sales of alcohol for consumption off the premises at any time when the retail outlet is open… unless there are good reasons, based on the licensing objectives, for restricting those hours”.

  • Following discussions with Councillor Gadsby regarding the original application submitted in 2016, an agreement had been reached that alcohol should be sold from 9am, despite the premises wanting to sell alcohol from 06:00.  Whilst Councillor Gadsby welcomed the Co-op to the community, he raised concerns regarding street drinking.  Selling alcohol from 6am would exacerbate this and evidence contradicting not being produced saw the 9am time previously agreed.
  • The premises now wished to sell alcohol from 7am when the premises opened as the written submissions provided clearly demonstrated that the licensing objectives had been promoted.  No evidence had been provided to show that the licensing objectives would not be promoted before or after 9am.
  • There was a misconception that only people that purchased alcohol during the morning were street drinkers.  However, it was well known that everyday customers wished to purchase alcohol with their shopping and was unfair to require them to return at 9am. 
  • The premises did not anticipate that much alcohol would be sold during the early morning but would like the opportunity to be able to sell alcohol to their customers.

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In response to questions from Members, the Mr Arnot and Pasquale confirmed:

 

  • Lock-down was a process for someone who has either just started the business or failed their training.  Employees were still required to undertake the licensing training but would be prevented from serving age-restricted by a till prompt to request authorisation from a trained and authorised person who could then enter their pin details for the sale to proceed.
  • Employees were required to repeat the training process again as needed, and discussion took place with their buddy to ascertain their capability to sell alcohol or whether they were more suited to other activities.  A decision would be made by management after four weeks to assess ability to sell alcohol.   
  • A massive pressure existed from other stores to allow early morning alcohol sales to prevent customers being turned away until 9am as customers would not return. 
  • An additional two hours would not make a difference for the premises in terms of profitability.
  • Following conversations with PC Hannah Eldridge the application was modified to 7am.  Her concern was the nightclub Brixton Jamm situated nearby to the premises would attract intoxicated individuals, as the venue had a late night premises licence until 5am.  The decision was taken to alter the time to alleviate concerns from the police.

 

Presentation by Interested Parties

 

Ms Bina Patel, Licensing Manager, said that:

 

·         She clarified that the premises had a licence to open from 6am and the decision made to open at 7am was a management issue.

·         Although discussions had taken place with the Police who agreed to a 7am start time to sell alcohol, the hours sought were still outside of the licensing policy hours. 

·         The area was well known for anti-social behaviour and street drinking, although not linked to this premises as they had not been trading during those hours.  However, there was a need to look at preventative measures within the area.

·         A massive change now existed in Brixton with more people coming into the area and street drinking had increased as a result.

·         More people tended to travel along Brixton Hill, Brixton Road and Coldharbour Lane and premises that sold alcohol during the early hours of the morning would encourage further problems.

·         The licensing policy recommended a start time of 11am for premises such as the Co-op.  While taken on its own merits the current hours the premises was seeking from 7am still did not satisfy the concerns that it would not lead to issues of anti-social behaviour within the area or attract street drinkers.

·         She recognised the extensive measures that had been undertaken regarding staff training at the premises.  However, each store manager carried out training dependent on their location.

·         She had not heard anything that would alleviate her concerns why the premises wished to seek the earlier two hour extension to sell alcohol and felt that the licence should not be granted, despite agreeing with the police to sell alcohol from 7am.

 

In response to questions from Members, Miss Patel confirmed:

 

  • The discussions held with the Police seemed to be solely based on Brixton Jamm and the hours they operated, and not about the area itself.  Therefore, from a licensing prospective, she felt that one particular premises was not enough justification to allow another premises to open at 7am for alcohol sales. 
  • Huge concerns existed within the Brixton area and numerous people were attracted to Brixton due to the bars, clubs and restaurants within the area.  As street drinking existed in the area, she had concerns how the premises would cope.  If people became aware that the Co-op were allowed to sell alcohol at 7am this would attract street drinkers to purchase alcohol.  Although she appreciated that comprehensive checks would be made by the premises to verify their age, street drinkers were normally adults that especially preferred to buy single cans.    
  • Complaints had been received regarding anti-social behaviour in the area. However, she could not comment on the concerns raised by Councillor Gadsby in his representation regarding the recent disturbances related to the sale of alcohol that occurred in the area. 

 

At this point, in response to a question on dispersal, the Legal Adviser confirmed that the dispersal was a police operational matter.  Therefore, any question pertaining to the operation of the dispersal zone should be directed to PC Eldridge.  PC Eldridge then confirmed that:

 

·         The most recent dispersal in the area occurred in the summer as a result of an unlicensed music event which attracted gangs but not in the area where the premises was situated. 

·         Her main concern was that Brixton Jamm had a licence until 5am which would enable patrons to remain and frequent in the area to purchase alcohol from the premises.  However, other independent traders existed in the area for people to purchase alcohol.

 

In response to an additional question from Members, Miss Patel confirmed:

 

  • If the Sub-Committee were minded to grant the licence, she suggested that the following additional condition should be added on the licence:

1.    “No single can sales should be sold between 07:00 to 09:00”

2.    Any alcohol sold should be a minimum for four packs between the hours of 07:00 to 09:00.

 

In response to further questions from Members, Mr Arnot and the Local Area Manager confirmed that:

·         Street drinkers were not attracted to supermarkets such as the Co-op as they preferred to buy their alcohol from independent retailers.  The premises did not sell alcohol to street drinkers.

·         The Licensing Guidance paragraph 10.10 stated that the application be judged on its own merits.  The Co-op did not intend to sell their premises and if sold it would be to another national supermarket and not an independent retailer.

·         Street drinkers would not purchase alcohol from the Co-op as it was too expensive but purchased alcohol from independent stores.  However, if a street drinker came into the premises they would not be served any alcohol.  A street drinker could easily be identified as a result of their demeanour and how they presented themselves.  

·         The onus was on the objector to bring evidence before the Sub-Committee to show that the premises would be incapable of promoting the licensing objectives between 7am and 9am and no evidence has been presented.  Councillor Gadsby clearly indicated in his representation that he had no issue with the premises.  If the application was granted, the premises would continue to promote the licensing objectives.    

·         The premises sold single cans.

·         If the Sub-Committee felt that the condition suggested by Miss Patel was appropriate, there was a need to consider premium products.  They are popular beers with customers that were sold in bottles and also single cans.  Premium products were not brought by street drinkers as they were considered too expensive.

·         No definition of premium products existed but the Sub-Committee was that the premises would act responsibly when they sold premium products.

 

Adjournment and Decision

 

At 8.43 pm, the Sub-Committee withdrew from the meeting together with the Legal Advisor and Clerk to deliberate in private.

 

The Sub-Committee had heard and considered representations from Mr Arnot, the Local Area Manager and Miss Patel.

 

Legal advice was given to the Sub-Committee on the options open to them and the need for any decision to be proportionate. The Sub-Committee decided to grant the application with additional condition as detailed below:

 

Additional Condition

 

Between the hours of 07:00 to 09:00 cans of beer, larger, cider or similar (excluding premium products), shall be sold in minimum quantities of four.

 

RESOLVED: To grant the application with additional conditions.

 

Announcement of Decision

 

Members returned to the meeting and the Chair informed those present of the decision to grant the application with an additional condition as outlined above.   The Sub-Committee had considered all the options available to them and ultimately felt that the applicant met the concerns which had been raised. The Chair confirmed that written notification of the decision would be sent in due course.

 

Supporting documents: