The UK’s inadequate licensing system is allowing law-breaking retailers to continue trading.
A member of Lincolnshire Police’s Alcohol Licensing team said the current legal system meant retailers with a history of wrongdoing could not always be traced.
Sergeant Kimble Enderby’s team recently submitted an alcohol licence review on Skegness retailer Keshera Kaluarachige after discovering he had employed illegal workers at a rate below the minimum wage.
“If this retailer was to take up another business in Lincolnshire, we would object to it, but at the moment there’s no national database recording every breach of retailers’ licence terms,” Sgt Enderby said.
A ‘fit and proper person’ section once existed on licensee application forms, requiring applicants to disclose former breaches, such as illicit trading.
Under the current system, retailers that avoid prosecution can easily open a business in a new county. “For example, if he went to Derbyshire and attempted to open a new store, he would only be prevented if he voluntarily mentioned it,” added Sgt Enderby.
He said this case won’t necessarily lead to a criminal conviction: “The immigration authority might deal with this with a civil penalty. Responsible, legitimate retailers are doing everything right and yet they’re supposed to compete with retailers like this.”
He urged symbol groups to help police crackdown on retailer misconduct.
“We’ve just started working quite closely with Camelot, who are removing National Lottery terminals from those who breach their licence terms,” he said. “We’re hoping other businesses will follow suit.”
Although Kaluarachige’s stores were trading under Mace and Today’s Group fascias and using the Bargain Booze name, all three groups told Retail Express that their names were being used illegally.
“This is not an official Bargain Booze store and we believe the owner is trading illegally under our brand,” said a spokesperson for Bargain Booze. “We are taking the necessary steps to prevent the owner from using the Bargain Booze name.”
Today’s added that it would hold retailers to account. “Any store that brings our brand into disrepute is in breach of membership, which may result in the fascia being removed,” a spokesperson said.
Click here for our full Q&A with sergeant Kimble Enderby.