Shop refused alcohol licence over husband and wife team’s ‘non-compliance’

A shop has been refused an alcohol licence due to a husband and wife team’s ‘history of non-compliance’ – from displaying drug paraphernalia to employing illegal workers – at various stores they are connected to. Ryan Newsagent Ltd had applied for a licence to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises at a former hairdressers in Shaw Heath, Stockport. Sole director Monica Pyka was to be the designated supervisor (DPS).

But town hall licensing chiefs heard that Mrs Pyka and her husband Gurinder Singh Sandhu – known locally as ‘Gary’ – ran stores which had failed to meet their obligations. These included not storing CCTV footage appropriately, poor record keeping and inadequate training.

A council report notes how drug paraphernalia was on display at Castle Street in November last year, and was still there in January, despite assurances it would be removed. In the same month Home Office immigration officials found staff at Bloom Street did not have the ‘appropriate right’ to work in the shop.

READ MORE: Off-licence barred from alcohol sales after boss ‘hid’ illegal cigarettes from officials

In February police were investigating a sexual assault in the Castle Street area. They reported Mr Singh Sandhu had been uncooperative and when officers checked the CCTV system they found there was no hard drive. This was despite a licensing condition stipulation CCTV footage must be stored for 28 days .

June Clarke, representing Ms Pyka, told a licensing sub-committee meeting that Mrs Pyka was DPS at shops in Bloom Street, Castle Street and, as of April 5, Penny Lane, as well as being premises licence holder (PLH) at Bloom Street and Castle Street.

She argued Mr Sandhu’s track record at Mottram Mini Market, at Lincoln Towers was irrelevant and the same went for Penny Lane prior to April 5. While Mrs Clarke accepted there had been shortcomings she said these had arisen after Ms Pyka fell pregnant with her second child last year and began suffering almost constant nausea.

Monica Pyka.
(Image: Stockport council.)

Ms Clarke said she had needed to take a lot of time off work and it was during this time that she ‘took her eye off the ball’. However, she has now returned to work and ‘began to regain control’. She also said a state-of-the-art CCTV system had been installed, allowing Mrs Pyka to monitor any shop she was responsible for remotely, and be at any premises within a matter of minutes.

But Jenette Hicks of the council’s licensing team urged the panel not to grant the licence. She told the panel that, while Mrs Pyka had been put forward as DPS, it was her perception that Mr Sandhu was still ‘very heavily involved’ in the day-to-day management of the shops.

She said: “The licensing team over the last 12 months have experience and evidence of non-cooperation, non-compliance and conflicting information regarding the operation of premises in which Mrs Pyka and Mr Sandhu are involved.”

Mrs Hicks added this was ‘primarily led’ by Mr Sandhu, who ‘presents himself for communication with licensing officers on the majority of occasions’.

“Mrs Pyka and Mr Sandhu, in whatever guise – whether that be as limited companies or as individuals – are believed to be operating several convenience stores in the borough, and these all operate under different ownership,” she said. However, she noted that Mrs Pyka was DPS at all the premises listed.She said there had been a welcome improvement recently, but this begged the question why previous pleas for compliance had fallen on deaf ears.

“It almost seems as if this representation is what’s prompted significant improvement in management control,” she added.

Jenette Hicks.
(Image: Stockport council.)

PC Jamie Ellison of GMP also spoke against the application on the grounds of the previous failings in relation to CCTV at the Castle Street store.

“Therefore we don’t have any faith that any other conditions on a new licence at 208 Shaw Heath would be adhered to,” he told the committee. He noted there had been a recent improvement, but police and the local authority would like to see this ‘sustained’ over a longer period of time.”

Ms Clarke, summing up, stressed that Mrs Pyka’s shop had never failed a test purchase and asked the panel to take her recent circumstances into account.

“All the problems of Mrs Pyka were caused in the 12 months when she was in the confinement and sickness period – she just wasn’t capable,” she said. “I think we have to give her some element of consideration towards that situation. She is now fine, arrangements have been made for the children, she and her husband are getting it together.

“He’s had a kick up the backside too, which Mrs Hicks has recognised and quite rightly, so. He, now, is absolutely terrified of getting things wrong.”

Mrs Clarke , of JMC Licensing, also said she was ensuring proper staff training was delivered across all shops in which Mrs Pyka and Mr Sandhu were involved. The three-strong panel, chaired by Councillor Chris Gordon, decided not to grant the premises licence following deliberations.

Mrs Pyka will have 21 days to appeal from receipt of the decision letter.

Stockport council’s Licensing, Environment & Safety Sub-Committee A met at the town hall on Monday night (April 11).

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