Owners of Hanwell Off Licence Unhappy About Review

Staff say they have been attacked by street drinkers

'The Best' off licence in Hanwell
'The Best' off licence in Hanwell


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August 29, 2023

A Hanwell business has had its licence to sell alcohol put under review after employees complained of allegedly being attacked by ‘street drinkers’. The Best has been the focal point of local authorities after the council promised a crackdown in the area.

The off licence, which sells specialist alcohol including whiskey, champagne and wine as well as bottles and cans of beer, was given a fine and warning three weeks ago before owners were informed that their licence was under review and could be revoked. The move comes as Hanwell residents complain of street drinkers, drug users and aggressive individuals gathering in public areas on a daily basis.

However, the brothers responsible for the business say they feel unfairly singled out having pressure from all sides to keep the premises open and functioning. Jaff and Pritpal Singh say they have been threatened, attacked and had their shop damaged as a result of refusing to sell alcohol to certain people as a result of the council’s scrutiny.

In a shop festooned with signs reading ‘we do not sell to street drinkers’, Jaff told Local Democracy Reporting Services (LDRS) “This problem started because of street drinkers but we have stopped it now.” One of the biggest problems premises is the proximity of the entrance to a nearby bus stop, which is only about 10 feet away.

Jaff says that is where street drinkers would congregate, using it for shelter and the shop as a convenient and readily accessible supplier of alcohol. However, since the council’s warning and the shop’s new policy about serving street drinkers the bus stop has become a massive source of tension.

“The bus stop is not my property, my property is inside. If they come in here it is my fault, if I serve them, it is my fault. If they sit outside at the bus stop I can’t tell them not to sit there. They always fight with me [when he asks them to leave]. They say ‘who are you? Why are you telling me I can’t sit here?’ It’s not my property, it’s the government’s property and that’s the problem.”

“The police come here, but they don’t do anything. If the police took strict action against these street drinkers, it would make life easier for me, it could save my licence as well.”

Jaff says that increasing tension between people known to the police as a public nuisance and the shop since they curbed serving them has to violence. “Me and my brother were here and a street drinker came in and pushed me and spit at me. He said, ‘why won’t you serve me?’ and said I would not serve him and he punched me. I called the police, but what did they do? They came and took the video clip [CCTV] and after that nothing no message, no reply.”

“Yesterday, the same guy came in and he forced me to sell to him. He threatened me. I told him I could not serve him alcohol but he said, ‘If you cannot serve me alcohol can you sell me cigarettes?’ and I said ok. He tapped his card and it was declined and he punched me.”

Jaff said after the incident he did not call the police because from experience he has found they very rarely any is done. “Why would I call the police? Police don’t do anything? Police are also scared of these types of people.”

Even when criminals are arrested, given banning orders, or moved by police, Jaff says he has seen the same face return to Hanwell within a day of law enforcement getting involved. “Two guys got arrested by police and they banned them from this area. Monday night police got them and the next morning they were back and were forcing us to sell to them.”

Violence and intimidation are only one component of issues facing the store, which could face closing down after 60 years if the licence is revoked. Pritpal who manages the shop says business rates, council tax and rent nearly doubling have all contributed to the woes he is facing.

He says that he has seen his rent go up from £27,000 to £50,000 putting him under enormous pressure to sell his wares. He also adds that by refusing street drinkers he has put himself and his shop at risk of violence while other shops around him will “100 per cent” sell to them instead. “Last week someone broke my door and it cost me £900 to repair it.”

“He was sitting outside the shopping telling people ‘don’t come to the shop’ because I refused to serve him. “

“There are about 6 shops around me, if I refuse him he going to go buy from another shop.”

As specialist sellers, the brothers predict that around 90 per cent of the items they offer are alcohol meaning that losing their licence would be devastating to their business. “There is so much pressure,” Pritpal says. “The rent, mortgages, you can see from my bank how many times my direct debit has been cancelled. My bus pass has gone because I can’t pay my direct debit.”

The council is reviewing The Best Wine’s license on three grounds, prevention of crime and disorder, public safety and prevention of public nuisance. Pritpal says the council has set the date of review for 6 September.

A bus stop is right outside the premises
A bus stop is right outside the premises

A council spokesperson said, “The council is aware of concerns regarding persistent ASB in and around Hanwell, and the distress that this is causing some residents. The council has invested significant time and resource in acting on the issues residents have raised, working closely with police and partners from drug and alcohol intervention services and other support agencies and actions taken include issuing community protection warnings, civil injunctions, and licensing enforcement to tackle behaviours such as street drinking.

“The council has a consistent and long record of enforcement of the rules for off licences, which is evidence-led. We regularly engage with local shops to encourage responsible retailing and regularly review and visit shops to ensure they are complying with the conditions of their licence. Following concerns raised by local people, and investigations by the council, the decision has been taken to review the licence of ‘The Best’.

“The council has also been supporting police-led enforcement of the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), and has made physical changes in hotspot locations, for example to benches and pavements, to make it more difficult for people to engage in anti-social behaviour in those locations.

“We will continue to highlight to the Metropolitan Police the need for a visible policing presence to deter ASB and crime in Hanwell and will continue to work with both policing partners and the local community to address ongoing concerns.”

Rory Bennett - Local democracy reporter


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