Today’s Express at 17 Duke Street in the town centre is a convenience store that sold drinks, sweets snacks, and also previously sold alcohol to customers.
However, earlier this year former owner Quais Aziz got in trouble with council and police licensing officers, who accused him of selling alcohol to nuisance street drinkers, and officers alleged violent incidents occurring at the shop.
The council’s licensing applications committee chose to revoke the licence in February 2023, meaning that alcohol could no longer be sold at the store.
During conversations with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Aziz said he planned to sell the business, a deal that was subsequently agreed by Gulinder Singh Chopra.
Mr Chopra swiftly submitted a licensing application to sell alcohol from 8am to 11pm each day, the terms of the previous licence.
But his plans for alcohol sales could be scuppered by council and police licensing officers, who both objected to the application, arguing that approval would fail to uphold the four licensing objectives, which are:
- The prevention of crime and disorder
- Public safety
- The prevention of public nuisance
- The protection of children from harm
Raising an objection to the application, Thames Valley Police licensing officer PC Declan Smyth said: “Due to the history of this site and nature of the previous incidents leading to that review it is imperative that theses criminal activities and wholesale failures are not repeated.
“The concern of Thames Valley Police is that this application has been made in an attempt to circumvent the review process relating to this premises and if granted will likely lead to the continuation of poor practice and a failure to uphold the licensing objectives.”
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Police and council licensing officers listed a series of conditions that should be imposed if the licence is granted.
Conditions proposed include banning the sale of 6.5 per cent ABV beer, cider and lager, and also banning the sale of individual drinks cans and bottles, with drinks only being sold in multipacks of four or more.
In his submission, council licensing officer Robert Smalley said: “It is unfortunate that Reading town centre, like many other densely populated
urban towns and cities, has issues with shoplifting, street drinking and antisocial behaviour linked to consuming alcohol.
“The new application does mention the history of the premises in so far as to state that the licence was revoked, however, there is no mention of the issue of street drinking, which is propagated by the allure of cheap, super strength alcohol (above 6.5% ABV) being sold in single cans.
“This is an issue that has been apparent for a number of years outside this premises, and, if this licence is granted without any conditions to address the issue, then it is believed that the likely result will be that street drinkers, who until recently, regularly sat in Thorn Lane consuming high strength alcohol, will
return and instances of anti-social behaviour will increase.”
The new licence for Today’s Express is set to be decided on Thursday, April 27.