Corner shop loses licence after selling vapes to children

A corner shop has lost its licence after selling vapes to children as young as 12 using the codeword “Kit Kat”.

Park Food & Wine on Kingswood High Street received more complaints and police intelligence than any other licensed premises in South Gloucestershire over the last two years, a council meeting heard.

The licensing sub-committee revoked the convenience store’s licence on October 2, and that of premises licence holder and designated premises supervisor (DPS) Hitesh Trivedi.

Avon & Somerset Police licensing officer Wes Hussey told the sub-committee that Mr Trivedi had never been at the shop during any of the many visits by officers since he took over and the shop was managed by Axsay Patel and his wife.

Mr Hussey said police and trading standards had given advice and guidance about underage sales on multiple occasions but the problems continued even after the force gave a final written warning.

He said Mr Trivedi had no oversight of age-restricted sales and Mr and Mrs Patel had “little or no regard or conscience to the selling of alcohol or vapes to children”.

Mr Hussey said: “In April 2022, police received intelligence that children were buying Puff Bars, or single-use vapes, from the premises by asking for ‘Kit Kat’ as a codeword.”

Mr Hussey said that after the parents of a 14-year-old girl reported that she had been sold vodka and e-cigarettes, a PCSO visited the store to view the CCTV but Mr Patel became “obstructive” when the girl appeared on the footage and claimed the internet was down and it could not show any more.

When a constable visited the following day, the images had been “deliberately deleted” from the system, he said.

Councillors heard Mr Trivedi and Mr Patel voluntarily attended a police interview in November and admitted selling a vape to a 15-year-old boy.

Trading standards senior enforcement officer Alan Cahill told the hearing: “Bearing in mind Mr Trivedi has operated the shop for only 21 months, no other business in South Gloucestershire has received so many complaints, allegations or police intel in that time.”

He said a 12-year-old boy was reportedly sold a disposable vape in January 2022 and that trading standards visited the shop the following month and seized 258 illegal e-cigarettes.

“The premises licence holder appears to have a total disregard to the law,” Mr Cahill said.

Mr Patel told the panel that he and his wife always asked for ID if someone looked under 25.

“We try our best. We always follow the rules,” he said.

He said there had been a technical problem with the CCTV.

Mr Trivedi told the hearing he had been working away but handed in his notice to focus on his responsibilities at the shop.

Councillors approved the request to revoke the premises licence, and remove Mr Trivedi as the DPS, deeming him “not a fit and proper person” to hold the role.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service