Licensing hearing for Haran's All in One Store in Norfolk Street Wisbech has today been adjourned
Concerns that a Wisbech store is guilty of selling illicit tobacco have been labelled "laughable" by supporters of its owner.
The premises licence, which allows Haran's in Norfolk Street, Wisbech to sell alcohol, was up for review today Monday at the request of Trading Standards and supported by the county's director of public health, Liz Robin, among other officials. However, it has now been adjourned until Friday September 27 for "medical reasons".
Trading Standards officer Kirsty Draycott requested Fenland Council review the premises licence held by Kanapathipillai Kumaravel Thivakaran, who is known as Pepsi to his customers, following a compliance visit during a multi-agency day of action in June.
The visit followed a previous test purchase visit by Trading Standards in January 2018 when it is alleged the store sold a packet of Russian non-duty paid cigarettes for £7.
During the June's visit it is alleged 15 x50g pouches of Amber Leaf hand rolling tobacco were found in a locked room in the upstairs storage area. They were not labelled in English and since the seizure the manufacturer, Amber Leaf, has confirmed they were not for the UK market.
As a result the licence review was triggered under the licensing objectives of prevention of crime and disorder and public safety.
Papers due to be considered by the licensing committee today said: "It is the responsibility of all premises licence holders to demonstrate that suitable and sufficient measures are undertaken to uphold the four Licensing Objectives of the Licensing Act 2003."
However, during the consultation period prior to the hearing, the council has received no fewer than seven letters in Mr Thivakaran's defence from shoppers and friends.
Among those defending him was Haran's' employee Rosa Baloseincuite who claims that during her three years of employment she had "never sold nor been told to sell any cigarettes or tobacco that was not UK duty paid".
Adding her boss is "really strict about this kind of business".
Patrick Halton, who said he has known Mr Thivakaran for many years, claimed to be "shocked and outraged that Pepsi is having his licence reviewed".
He said Mr Thivakaran is an "up-standing guy, who is always annoyingly strait-laced" and described the allegations as "laughable".
Fellow Wisbech businessman Ray Johnson, former president of the Wisbech Chamber of Commerce and Wisbech Norfolk Street Traders Association has also offered Mr Thivakaran, who is his tenant at the shop premises, his support claiming "he has always been an honest hard working individual paying his dues, keeping on the correct side of the law.
"In our many conversations he has always condemned anyone trading in any type of contraband goods."
Mr Johnson adds that Mr Thivakaran has suffered a "very challenging time" having lost his father in the past month, which had resulted in his "eye being taken off the ball".
However, Joanne Evans, private sector housing officer at Fenland District Council, supports the licence review and said: "I would like to raise an objection at the forthcoming licensing hearing for Haran’s at 11/10 Norfolk Street Wisbech for the reason of public safety due to lack of cleanliness and out of date food and drink for sale. In addition there was evidence that the business is operating without a legal trade waste agreement."
The licensing hearing is at 11am at the Boathouse in Wisbech.