The representative of a wine and booze store in Wokingham town centre made a passionate plea for it to keep selling alcohol after its owner was caught approving underage sales.

BB Wines in Broad Street is having its licence reviewed after its owner, Parmit Singh Kapoor, sold alcohol to underage teenagers on two occasions this year.

In the first, in April, he sold beer to a 16 year-old boy and during the second in July he sold beer to the same teenage boy and a girl who had just turned 17.

However, Mr Kapoor was busy on the phone at the time, and when licensing officers confronted him, he said: “Ah, you caught me again.”

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BB Wines representative Leo Charalambides made a passionate plea for Mr Kapoor and the store to keep the licence.

During the meeting, Mr Charalambides argued that Mr Kapoor had passed previous underage test purchases, and knew the type of people to look out for.

He said: “We’ve noticed a change in the character of the area, particularly in the past few years, having issues with children coming in, trying to buy alcohol, and picking up alcohol and running out of the store.

“Mr Kapoor recognises what the ‘likely lads and lasses’ look like, they’re very different from the clean cut scouts and police cadets that are used in test purchases, that’s not to make an excuse, it’s just to point out there’s a difference between someone in the locality who knows the faces, style and attitude of children trying to buy alcohol and the very different body language and attitude of kids undercover fulfilling their undercover spy fantasies working for the police and trading standards which may account for the issue.”

Bracknell News: BB Wines in Broad Street, Wokingham town centre. Credit: Google MapsBB Wines in Broad Street, Wokingham town centre. Credit: Google Maps

BB Wines had passed test purchases on February 7, 2019, March 2, 2019 and January 2, 2020.

But a failure in December, 10 2018, when alcohol was sold to a girl, led Mr Kapoor to being prosecuted and having to pay a total of £330 at a Reading Magistrates Court hearing on July 26, 2020.

About that incident, Mr  Charalambides said: “There was concern around the appearance of the girl who we said had a great deal of makeup and looked a lot older than she actually was.”

Mr  Charalambides proposed having a minimum of two staff members at BB Wines from 3pm onwards at all times.

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He said there had been difficulty with staffing so far this year as one of the employees, called Mr Banala, visited India due to his parents suffering from coronavirus, and “got stuck” there due to coronavirus measures and the cost of returning to the UK.

He also said Mr Kapoor and staff members Sammy Miah and Mr Banala had been trained by Surendra Panchal, a personal licence holder trainer, who conducts courses in English and Bengali.

Mr  Charalambides pointed out that BB Wines has become more busy after four off-licences have closed in Wokingham town centre in recent years.

The licence review was considered by the council’s Licensing and Appeals Sub-Committee today (Monday, September 13).

You can view a tweet thread of the meeting here:

The committee’s options include taking no action, issuing a warning, modifying the premises licence or temporarily suspending the licence. The most extreme would be to revoke the licence entirely. As 70 per cent of the stock of the wine store is alcohol, such an action would have a big impact on the business.

The decision will be made by committee members Councillor Bill Soane (Conservative, Loddon), Cllr Chris Bowring (Conservative, Wokingham Without) and Ian Shenton (Liberal Democrat, Evendons).

No decision was reached during the meeting, But one will be made and sent to all interested parties in the next five working days.