Under-age sales cost pub licence
8:00am Saturday 19th October 2013 in Latest News
A WELL-known Old Town pub has had its licence to sell alcohol withdrawn after serving underage drinkers.
Longs Bar has been stripped of its premises licence after repeated failures of test purchases by the police.
Arkell’s Brewery, which holds the licence, now has 21 days to appeal and Longs will remain open as normal in the meantime.
The decision was made by the council licensing panel yesterday after Wiltshire Police requested a review.
Police sent in under-age test purchasers, with some as young as 15, a number of times in recent years and Longs failed four times since October 2010, with three since October 2012.
Mike Sheridan has been the tenant for seven years but the brewery have said it is likely he will be removed.
Brewery director George Arkell said: “We are very disappointed in our licensee, who has been the tenant at Longs Bar since 2006.
“Arkells is now awaiting the full formal report from Swindon Borough Council, however there will inevitably be a change of management at Longs.”
Mr Sheridan, 40, said: “We are a very busy bar, especially at weekends, and have always done our utmost to impose a zero tolerance attitude to under-age drinking.
“Sadly, the odd one or two can sometimes slip through the net no matter how vigilant you are.
“I am sure there are many venues in Swindon who have inadvertently served under-age people, despite the rules and regulations they may have imposed. That is the case with us.
“I have been in and out of hospital numerous times over the last three years and Arkells have been utterly supportive through this. I have nothing but respect for the way they have treated me.
“I would just like to make it clear to all our customers that it is business as usual at Longs pending the appeal.”
The first test purchase failed by Longs was in February 2010 when a 15 and 17-year-old were served by staff. Police met with management shortly after at which concerns were raised at a lack of staff training but no fines were issued.
The next failure occurred in October 2012 when two 17-year-olds bought alcohol.
Mike Sheridan was issued with an £80 fixed penalty notice and at a licence review the venue was ordered to increase staff training and adopt the challenge 25 scheme, meaning anyone who looks under the age of 25 needs to be checked for identification.
In January, police carried out an operation across Swindon in which eight venues failed the test purchase. Longs failed twice in one evening, several hours apart when a 16 and 17-year-old were each served a Smirnoff Ice.
As a result of this failure, Arkell’s accepted a closure order which discharged them of any criminal liability for persistently selling alcohol to children.
No licence review was ordered on this occasion.
In July, the police carried out a further operation. A 16 and 17-year-old entered the premises and were stopped by the door staff.
However, two police in the premises at the time to witness the test purchase say they saw Mr Sheridan speak to the staff and the youngsters were allowed in. One then bought a a bottle of cider.
Mr Sheridan disputes the test purchase failure and that the youngsters even entered the premises.
The police decided this was an unacceptable number of failures in a period of time and requested a further review of the licence.
'I hope this serves as a warning'
WILTSHIRE Police Licensing Officer Sian Kalynka said: “We take any breaches of the law seriously and on four occasions test volunteers, who are all under 18, have been served alcohol in Longs Bar.
“This is despite us issuing warnings and holding several meetings with the bar management and license holder.
“Due to these repeated failures and breaches in the licensing objective to protect children from harm, Wiltshire Police was left with no other option other than to ask the Licensing Committee to suspend or revoke the licence.
“I hope this serves as a warning to licensed premises that Wiltshire Police will monitor all venues which serve alcohol and make sure they are operating in a safe and legal manner.
“We carry out test purchases throughout the year to make sure that venue are working within the law.” erving alcohol to children a serious offence and one which carries significant penalties.”