A Doncaster shop owner has lost his alcohol licence to after he admitted to selling ‘smuggled’ booze with foreign labelling.
Hadi Salem, the licence holder of Doncaster Food & Wine on Nether Hall Road, town centre, said he was ‘very sorry’ to councillors on the sub-licensing committee.
He admitted to acquiring alcohol from banned company Beer Fella and their illegal Sheffield warehouse operation.
But licensing chair Coun Linda Curran ruled to move the majority of the meeting in private after Mr Salem’s lawyer said some information they wanted to disclose would ‘put his clients safety at risk’.
This refers to the second time council officers found the foreign labelled beer.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service made objections to this ruling but were not successful.
Senior environmental officer Michael Griffiths said products which are sold from a ‘unregulated source’ cannot be traced and ‘could be unfit for sale’.
He’s supported a licensing review and said the alcohol had been supplied by an 'illegal warehouse in Sheffield'.
But nearby businesses on the town centre road have come out to support Mr Hadi.
Council chiefs received eight separate letters from other businesses who labelled the shop boss a ‘kind, friendly’ and ‘important member of the business community’.
Others called the shop owner a ‘respectable business man’ and a ‘friendly neighbour’.
The meeting heard council officers visited the shop and identified a ‘large amount’ of ‘foreign labelled’ beer back in August.
In documents seen by councillors, officers said Mr Salem could not provide invoices for the beer.
But on another visit to the store a month later, council officers were provided with invoices from a company called The Beer Fella.
Further investigations found the Sheffield-based company had their alcohol registration taken away due to ‘illegal activity’ but were still trading from an ‘unknown warehouse in South Yorkshire’ according to HMRC bosses.
Documents show Mr Hadi was asked to help the HMRC in their investigation into the The Beer Fella but told council officials the number he used to contact them had been blocked. The shop owner also agreed not to buy anymore illicit alcohol.
But trading standards and health & safety officials at the council found ‘16 cases of Polish beer’ on a visit in early October.
When interviewed under caution, the shop owner revealed they had come from the ‘same illegal warehouse’ in Sheffield, was ‘tired of lying’ and reportedly apologised for this actions.
Graham Hopkins, Mr Salem’s legal representative said: “Mr Salem is adamant that there were only two purchases that were found.
“The first lot, yes he sold it but the second lot, he sent it back. In terms of the first load, he admits he made a mistake but he is genuinely remorseful.
“There is a list of conditions we have presented that including transferring the to designated premises supervisor (DPS) to another person who will be in charge of buying the alcohol and this process has already been applied.”
Solicitor Helen Wilson, on behalf of licensing sub-committee chair, Coun Linda Curran said: “In line with licensing policy, we have decided to revoke the licence.
“The committee agree that the sale of alcohol from unregulated sources is regarded as smuggled and therefore is traded irresponsibly and potentially illegally.
“All off-licences in Doncaster have been told about the dangers of selling smuggled goods by the health and safety authority and at least two letters have been sent to Mr Salem warning him.
“Mr Salem has admitted his alcohol was purchased from the Beer Fella and knew this was an organisation that has a licence to sell alcohol legally.
“Mr Salem is clearly apologetic that he has sold smuggled alcohol, however the committee do not believe this was the first occasion evidenced by the lack of invoices.”