Alcohol licence revoked for shop involved in illegal tobacco trade

Lifestyle Express Store, Middle Street, Blackhall.
Lifestyle Express Store, Middle Street, Blackhall.

A shop at the centre of an illegal cigarette operation has had its licence to sell alcohol revoked by council bosses.

Lifestyle Express Store, in Middle Street, Blackhall, was ordered to shut down by magistrates after being linked to the illicit tobacco trade.

It followed an October raid which seized rolling tobacco and cigarettes worth almost almost £3,700.

A report by trading standards investigators explained how sales were handled by a person referred to as ‘S’.

It said: “Intelligence suggested illicit and counterfeit tobacco products were being sold from various vehicles outside of this shop [Lifestyle Express] by S on a regular basis, with the shop being used to directly to facilitate this activity [sic].”

It added: “On every occasion, customers are seen to enter the shop before walking to the vehicles with S and then items are handed over to him.”

No illegal products were found at the store itself when it was raided on October 26, but a ‘significant amount of illicit tobacco and cigarettes’ were discovered at S’s home and in a storage container in Middle Street ‘known to be accessed by S’, the report to councillors stated.

Investigators estimated the value of the haul to be worth between £3,250 – £3,690.

The closure order was issued by Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, November 15, and threatens a prison sentence of up to 51 weeks for anyone other than the owner who tries to enter the property.

The order is due to expire on February 12 and does not apply to the flat above the shop.

The evidence was heard by Durham County Council’s statutory Licensing Sub-Committee yesterday.

The shop had previously held a licence under the name M & A General Store to sell alcohol 8am – 11pm Monday – Saturday and 10am – 10.30pm on Sundays.

Council documents named the premises licence holder as Dalvinder Singh and designated premises supervisor (DPS) as Jaswant Kaur, who is also joint owner of the store.

Neither attended the meeting, despite repeated attempts by council licensing officers to contact them.

Members of the panel were also shown video evidence of tobacco sales taking place.

Committee chairwoman Coun Pauline Crathorne said: “The premises licence holder has not turned up today and no evidence has been presented as to the running of the premises.

“The licence holder cannot be contacted despite numerous efforts and that is a concern in itself.

“We’ve considered the evidence and the role of the authority is to prevent crime.

“We believe there is insufficient control on the premises to promote the licensing objectives and it is therefore revoked.”

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service