A Boston off-licence has had its licence suspended for 21 days following a meeting of the council’s licensing committee today (Monday).
Natalija Vincukova appeared before the committee for a review of NV Grocery Store, on Carlton Road, after a number of breaches of the licensing conditions were raised by Lincolnshire Police
Officers said that the owners had breached all four licensing objectives - prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and protection of children from harm.
During their visits officers from the force and Trading Standards found beer being sold as single cans contrary to a licensing condition which stated a minimum of four cans, food which had best before and use by dates altered including by a many as four months, and issues with CCTV, training and incident log books.
Selling items past their use-by dates is deemed to be unsafe and can lead to criminal convictions, however, no such proceedings have been brought.
Further visits, even after police had given advice on the conditions, found single cans of alcohol continuing to be sold.
Sgt Kim Enderby called the attempts to change the dates ‘crude’ and said he believed them to be ‘deliberate food fraud’.
In defence, Mrs Vincukova, who is the licence holder with husband Janis, said that at the time of the visit, she had been running two stores and found it to be too much.
This led to the couple surrendering their licence and closing the James Street business – which had first caused concerns for police.
Mrs Vincukova and her representative Desley Sherwin, of Chattertons Solicitors, said there had been improvements to the store since the visits - including CCTV being corrected, ‘incompetent’ staff being fired, weekly training sessions with staff and up-to-date recording of incidents.
Mrs Vincukova blamed the warehouse for the issues with the dates and said it had accepted responsibility and taken the stock back. She also said a staff member had become confused over the number of cans which could be sold, which had led to her selling single cans.
She pointed to a recent inspection by Boston Borough Council’s food hygiene team which has awarded the shop a five rating - the highest it can give.
Sgt Enderby, however, still expressed doubts over the business, and the dates, stating that some of those which were incorrect had been corrected from the date the officers had been in the store.
He said: “To suggest it was someone else’s fault, doesn’t hold water. I believe that a clear deliberate act has taken place at this store.”
Boston Borough Council’s Licensing Committee decided that the licensing objective of preventing crime and disorder had been breached.
It also found another breach, whereby CCTV, though upgraded, was below the framerate per second required by the conditions on the licence.
Mrs Vincukova has 21 days to appeal, and can still sell alcohol during this period.
An amendment has also been made to the licensing conditions which clarifies that ‘the sale of cans or bottles of beer, lager or cider shall only be in packs of four or multiples thereof unless over 550 millilitres’.
The council also issued a ‘strict warning’ to Mr and Mrs Vincukova to obey her licensing objectives including keeping logs of training and refusals as required.