Agenda item

Review of the Premises Licence for Bucharest Off Licence, 56 Harehills Road, Harehills, Leeds, LS8 5LE

To receive and consider the attached report of the Chief Officer (Elections and Regulatory) regarding a report that informs the Licensing Sub Committee that West Yorkshire Police has served on the Licensing Authority an application under Section 51 of the Licensing Act 2003 for a review of a premises licence in respect of Bucharest Off Licence, 56 Harehills Road, Leeds LS8 5LE.



The report of the Chief Officer (Elections and Regulatory) presented a report that informs Sub-Committee Members that West Yorkshire Police, has served on the licensing authority an application under 51 of the Licensing Act 2003 for a review of the premises licence in respect of Bucharest Off Licence, 56 Harehills Road, Harehills, Leeds, LS8 5LE.


The grounds of the review relate to the seizure of non-duty paid alcohol and cigarettes from the premises.


The following were in attendance for this item:

·  PC Neil Haywood, West Yorkshire Police – Review Applicant

·  Victoria Radford, Entertainment Licensing – Representation in support of the Review

·  Babul Hussain, West Yorkshire Trading Standards - Representation in support of the Review

·  Councillor Ali Asghar, Local Ward Councillor - Representation in support of the Review

·  Emilia Slezak, Public Health – Witness on behalf of the Local Ward Councillors


The Legal Adviser to the Sub-Committee outlined the procedure for the hearing.


It was noted that the licence holder was not in attendance for the hearing. Sub-Committee Members agreed to proceed with the hearing as all other attendees were present.


The Licensing Officer highlighted the following information:

·  A joint collaboration with West Yorkshire Police, HMRC, West Yorkshire Trading Standards and Leeds City Council Licensing, resulted in the seizure of non-duty paid alcohol and cigarettes from the premises.

·  The premises currently holds a licence permitting sale by retail of alcohol (for consumption off the premises only) Monday – Saturday 08:00 until 23:00 and Sunday 10:00 until 22:30.

·  Representations in support of the review have been received from responsible authorities including a Senior Liaison Enforcement Officer on behalf of Entertainment Licensing, Trading Standards and Local Ward Councillors.

·  Members were provided with the steps available to them in determining the application and those appropriate in the promotion of the licensing objectives.


West Yorkshire Police informed the Sub-Committee and provided the following information:

·  Harehills is in a Cumulative Impact Area and categorised as high where alcohol is related as a factor in relation to crime, anti-social behaviour, and violent crime. Harehills is also rated high in terms of ambulance callouts and alcohol related hospital stays. It has also been highlighted by a professional that Harehills is one of the most challenging areas in country due to serious issues relating to alcohol.

·  It is considered that this is not an isolated case, and it appears to be a systematic widespread failure to abide by the law and the premises licence.

·  The premises is one of the 12 put forward for a review by West Yorkshire Police, all for serious breaches and offences. It is believed that the stores are linked via organised crime and the same distribution of goods are being sold across the Harehills area.

·  A multi-agency operation took place on 30th August 2023, where a visit to Bucharest was undertaken. During the visit, a number of goods were seized including 36 bottles of wine, 19 bottles of spirits and 6740 cigarettes. It is believed that this is not a one-off mistake.


Trading Standards provided the following information:

·  On 28th September 2021, a previous seizure also took place regarding the premises, and this was dealt with by a warning due to them being a first time offended and resources being directed elsewhere.

·  Illegal tobacco comes in various forms such as illicit whites and counterfeit products, all of which are non-duty paid goods, and monies not being directed to vital services nationally.

·  A test purchase was carried out on the 29th August 2023, where a person purchased a packet of cigarettes for £4, a third of the genuine price which makes the goods more affordable to children to purchase.

·  Illegal vapes were also found on the premises in the form of different flavours, and over the permitted 2ml of liquid.

·  The packets of cigarettes were found hidden under the counter.


West Yorkshire Police proceeded to explain that the offences are not an isolated case of criminality, and it appears to be organised. Additional conditions will not solve the issues regarding the premises and therefore the Sub-Committee were asked to revokie the licence.


Further to a question from Sub-Committee Members, it was confirmed that the police are not aware of any plans to change ownership. Trading Standards explained that a loophole has been identified in transferring the licence and this tactic is used nationally across organised criminality groups.


Entertainment Licensing informed the Sub-Committee, providing the following information:

·  The premises has held a licence since August 2005 and the licence holder has been the premises licence holder since 26th March 2019.

·  Entertainment Licensing visited the premises following complaints of street drinkers, anti-social behaviour related issues and littering, and residents feeling intimated by groups congregating on the street. Advice was provided to the licence holder in 2019 regarding this.

·  In September 2021, hundreds of pounds worth of cigarettes was seized on the premises and CCTV was not working as it should, being 9 minutes out of time. Part A and B of their licence was also not displayed as it should per the conditions on the premises licence.

·  A test purchase was carried out on 29th August 2023, where a person was sold counterfeit products.

·  On the day of the multi-agency operation, of the goods seized, £2,916.36, is the duty owed on the goods.

·  Smuggled goods were kept at the premises, and this is the responsibility of the DPS and licence holder to take accountability for anything that happens unlawfully on the premises.

·  A visit was undertaken on 11th October 2023, where a young male was working behind the counter and explained he was in training. The CCTV was still not working as it should.

·  The licence holder has failed to uphold their responsibilities and does not make Harehills a better place to live and play.


Further to a question from a Sub-Committee Member, it was confirmed that it is not believed to be a mistake as a similar offence occurred in 2019 and responsible authorities have repeatedly visited the premises and provided advice.


Councillor Ali informed the Sub-Committee, providing the following information:

·  It is not an isolated offence, and it is an organised crime.

·  The premises selling cigarettes for £4, is affordable for children and encourages them to purchase.

·  The loophole used by organised crime, is allowing new individuals to money launder through illegal and illicit crime.

·  The premises has a negative impact on the local area and community, and following advice, they have refused to take that onboard.

·  The Sub-Committee were asked to revoke the licence with immediate effect, to send a message that Harehills will not tolerate illegal activities and the selling of illicit goods.

·  There are 3 main schools nearby the premises where children will walk past the shop on their route. £4 is equivalent to buying sweets and is pocket money to buy the illicit goods from the premises.

·  There is concealment in the building to store the illicit goods and it is believed it is not a one-person operation.


The Public Health representative provided the following information:

·  There are a lot of health inequalities that exist in Harehills.

·  The service uses a calculated risk tool to estimate alcohol harm for each Middle Super Output Area (NMSOA). The MSOA places an overall score into a comparative risk ranking, and there is 107 in Leeds, with 1 being the most harmful. Harehills ranks high in terms of looked after children and anti-social behaviour related crime linked with alcohol.

·  GIPSAL centre where vulnerable children are supported, is a 10-minute walk away from the premises.

·  It is not known what is inside illicit goods, and this poses a harm to people.

·  There is a high number of children under the age of 16 in the care system and research shows they’re more at risk of trauma and adapt to behaviours such as drinking and using vapes.

·  Organisations are already helping to support street drinkers, and this should not exist.

·  Evidence shows that children who are exposed to street drinking and the selling of illicit goods, it becomes normal for young children, and they believe this is ok.

·  Residents have already said they fear their children growing up in the Harehills area and do not want to live there due to the amount of gang crime, domestic violence, litter, and alcohol abuse.


Further to a question from a Sub-Committee Member regarding the ‘loophole’ in law, the police explained that a problem for them is delivering evidence with a new premises owner who is not linked to the area, and it is more difficult to prove the connection between 2 people. It is considered that a change in national legislation is needed to overcome this issue. Further to this, Trading Standards added that it is common for attempts to be made to transfer a licence following a review application and it will still be the same people getting paid but under a new premises licence holder. Challenges locally and nationally will continue to persist.


In summarising, West Yorkshire Police added that the premises previously had goods seized in 2021, and failed a test purchase in 2023, and in August 2023 further goods were seized. It is considered that the premises is a risk to public safety and crime and disorder will continue if the premises operates. Sub-Committee Members were asked to consider revoking the licence.


At this point in the meeting, the Sub-Committee went into private session to deliberate on the application. Upon returning, it was

RESOLVED – To revoke the licence.


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