ALCOHOL LICENCE: Former teacher wins praise for effort to get licence
A FORMER teacher has won praise for his thorough defence of efforts to sell alcohol from a new shop in Stockton.
There were a number of concerns and objections over Fahad Anwar’s effort to open a new convenience store on Durham Road – with worries Newtown had enough outlets selling booze already.
But the shopkeeper allayed the concerns of the committee and ward councillor Marilyn Surtees during a licensing hearing on Tuesday.
Cllr Surtees had misgivings about the licensing bid ahead of the hearing saying the stretch was a “prolific hot spot” for trouble.
Her objection letter added: “This is an area where gangs of teenagers hang around causing a nuisance to residents.
“We often have reports of drug dealing openly taking place in the Bedford Street Alley directly opposite the site.
“Durham Road already has multiple social problems being in a very deprived part of the ward with many multi-occupancy properties housing transient tenants.”
The Labour member also pointed to how there were five licensed premises within a short walking distance of the derelict shop.
And she feared another shop “attracting more undesirables” to the area would exacerbate problems faced by residents.
Family-run shop and more than 30 years’ experience
Labour councillor Paul Weston also had doubts given levels of anti-social behaviour.
But Mr Anwar argued the problems were linked to wider societal ills which shouldn’t be laid at his door, or hamper his licensing efforts.
He told the licensing panel he’d amended his proposed opening hours from 9am until 9pm – adding it could close earlier as his wife wanted him home soon after 8pm.
He added the shop would be “community focused” and family run – providing healthy groceries, parcel services when it opens.
Mr Anwar said: “The alcohol, while it’s vital for the viability of the business, is not what should define it.
“It’s more of a convenience store and I’d like it to be thought of in that way rather than just somewhere there to serve alcohol.”
There were also worries from residents ahead of the meeting.
Nile Mein aired concern in his letter about youngsters drinking, smoking and causing trouble with five outlets selling booze within walking distance.
Lifelong Newtown resident Jamie Broderick felt another shop selling alcohol would make life “very unbearable” and urged early closing hours.
Meanwhile a “shrill bell” which disturbed a householder in the flat above the shop also prompted concern.
Mr Anwar told the licensing committee the shop would help to regenerate Newtown – and said he had a “vast experience” of running off-licences and convenience stores alongside his father.
“The designated premises supervisor is my father and he’s been doing this since 1989,” he added.
“It’s worth mentioning in all the years my father and I have operated businesses, he’s never had one negative mark on his record.
“He and I have always been responsible.”
Conditions were agreed with police and council environmental health teams ahead of the hearing – including measures to ensure CCTV was installed, waste was disposed of properly and ensuring no single cans or small cans of strong cider would be sold.
Mr Anwar said some of the objections had mentioned problems with other businesses and had “put them at his doorstep” and found some of the representations “a bit far fetched”.
He added: “I feel like a lot of it is speculation. Nobody knows how we operate and we’ve operated very responsibly for 32 years.
“We’ve always fully co-operated with the authorities, always had alarms in place and crime prevention and CCTV.
“The premises itself is very secure.
“We’ve got electric shutters outside and alarms inside – and we’re ready and willing to promote the four licensing objectives.”
The applicant also argued there was nothing in the licensing rules about too many shops selling alcohol in a given area.
Mr Anwar added: “I’m not denying Stockton doesn’t have problems – many areas of the UK have problems but this is not a special measures area.
“There are not too many shops. The number of shops available to people who have drinking problems is not the cause of the problem.
“To talk about the number of shops is unfair.”
He later pointed to a part of the Fairfield ward where five shops sold alcohol in a similar sized area – adding it didn’t have the same level of anti-social behaviour and crime problems seen in Newtown.
Cllr Ken Dixon was pleased to see hours reduced from 9am and 9pm and found Mr Anwar’s evidence “very concise”.
But councillors agreed action should be taken by either the landlord or the person responsible to make the doorbell quieter.
Cllr Eileen Johnson added: “I can imagine living above the shop with that bell going off above the shop would be quite annoying.
“I wonder if you could explore with the landlord a quieter bell or a different sound.
“I think that person who lives above would be grateful for that.
“Otherwise, you gave a very full response.”
Meanwhile, Cllr Surtees told the committee she was “fully reassured” Mr Anwar would be a responsible business owner.
She added: “This isn’t personal. I’ve objected to every licensee while I’ve been a councillor.”
The member for Newtown said the area on Durham Road had faced a “nightmare” and residents who’ve lived there for a long time become “very vocal”.
After Mr Anwar defended his bid once again, the panel was satisfied they had enough information to make a decision.
“I think we know exactly where Mr Anwar is coming from – and I think he probably knows where we’re coming from as well,” added Cllr Johnson.
A decision is set to be made on the licensing bid early next week.
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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