Published: 27 November 2014
Q: I am the owner and premises licence holder of a local community pub. A couple of months ago my local council carried out a test purchase operation in my premises and I served an underage test purchase volunteer. After receiving a warning from the police, the council carried out a further test purchase operation last week, which they say that I failed. I dispute the circumstances of the second failed test purchase. The police have told me that they do not intend to prosecute but a weights and measures officer has served me with a closure notice specifying that I must not sell alcohol for two weeks. As I wish to dispute the closure notice, how long have I got to dispute it?
A: You, as premise licence holder, will have 14 days to decide whether or not to accept the proposed prohibition or elect to be tried for the offence of persistently selling alcohol to children. The time from which the prohibition would begin must be specified in the closure notice and be at least 14 days after the date on which the closure notice was served.
It is however worth remembering that if you were to accept the alcohol prohibition as specified in the closure notice, it would allow you the opportunity to discharge all criminal liability in respect of the alleged offence. By challenging the notice you will be faced with the uncertainty of a court case and the possibility of a £20,000 fine or as an alternative, up to a 3 month suspension of your premises licence.
On a more pragmatic level, by refusing to accept the prohibition in the closure notice, your relationship with your local police and weights and measures teams may be put under severe pressure. Remember it is common practice amongst enforcing authorities to seek to review a premises licence where a number of underage sales have taken place. I don’t know the facts of why you dispute the second test purchase and clearly you must not admit an offence for which you are innocent, but in the circumstances a commercial decision to close for 2 weeks might be preferable to a potential criminal record and a review.
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