A petrol station owner’s lack of understanding of the Challenge 25 rule has led to a three-month ban on alcohol sales there.
Aldershot Service Station, the Jet garage in High Street, failed three test purchases carried out by Hampshire County Council’s Trading Standards in the space of a year and was the subject of a licensing hearing by Rushmoor Borough Council on Monday July 7.
Members of the panel questioned the owner Sultan Hayat about the errors, in which 16-year-old children were sold alcohol at the Nisa Local shop. The shop has had a licence to sell alcohol 24 hours a day since May 2008.
The first failure was on February 18 last year, when a 16-year-old was sold alcohol. A test purchase was passed on April 4 2013, but two more failures followed on June 26 and again on February 19 this year.
This was despite police officers meeting with Mr Hayat on two occasions to discuss the issue.
Arguing his case at the hearing, Mr Hayat said he had sacked two of the employees who sold alcohol to the volunteers, but insisted the volunteer this February, served by his son, had appeared the lawful age.
“I’ve seen the video and that lady looked over 20,” he said. “I respect the law more than anything.
“I run off-licences in other places, including here in Aldershot, and nothing else has happened like this. I’ve done what I can to stop all this. It’s unfortunate what happened and I apologise.”
Stephen Lawford, representing Trading Standards, asked Mr Hayat why if he abided by the Challenge 25 rule - a mandatory condition of alcohol licences whereby anyone who appears younger than 25 is asked for identification - as he said, why the volunteer had been served because she looked 20.
“She was 16, and only just 16, and a schoolgirl,” added Mr Lawford.
Mr Hayat said he had been running such businesses for 33 years and his son ‘could see clearly’ she was of the lawful age.
The businessman also failed to produce a sales log when asked by Trading Standards, which he said was lost while the shop was ‘messed up’ during a refit.
Mr Hayat argued that the training he had given to his staff made him blameless for what had happened and rejected the suggestion of chairman Councillor Alex Crawford that he had misunderstood the Challenge 25 law.
“I tell my staff once or twice a week ‘you must not sell alcohol, and don’t even sell cigarettes to them’,” he said.
He also pointed to the example of a mistake made by the council’s licensing team, for which he had received an apology, where he had been told he did not have a certain licence when in fact he did.
Despite Mr Hayat’s protests, the panel decided to suspend the sale of alcohol for three months and remove him as the designated premises supervisor. Another supervisor will have to receive the necessary training and be present for every alcohol sale after this period.
Mr Hayat said the decision would have an impact on the business and that he intended to appeal against it.