Storrington petrol station's alcohol licence temporarily suspended after it sold lager to 16-year-old in test purchase

A Storrington petrol station’s alcohol licence has been temporarily suspended after it failed a test purchase by selling four cans of lager to a 16-year-old volunteer.
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Pricewatch Ltd, trading as ‘Power’ petrol station in Old Mill Drive, was visited by Trading Standards officers in April 2022 to give advice after receiving reports of vapes and other age restricted products were being sold to children.

Then on Tuesday May 31 a member of staff at the store sold four cans of lager to a 16-year-old who had volunteered to take part in a test purchase for Trading Standards.

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Following a review, Horsham District Council’s licensing sub-committee decided to suspend Pricewatch Ltd’s alcohol licence and remove the Designated Premises Supervisor at a meeting last week (November 23).

Petrol station in Storrington (Google Maps Streetview)Petrol station in Storrington (Google Maps Streetview)
Petrol station in Storrington (Google Maps Streetview)

Suspension of the licence is due to come into effect just before Christmas, at which time the sale of alcohol must cease for 12 weeks.

Speaking for the company, Chris Mitchener, licencing practitioner, suggested on the occasion in question the member of staff ignored their training and a till prompt. Following the incident they were charged with gross misconduct and probation period terminated.

The store operates a Challenge 25 policy, and a number of staff members have turned down sales and logged them in the refusals book. An audit was carried out and all staff immediately refresher trained, while there is a new operations manager and two new field managers as part of an overall reorganisation.

Ultimately the committee decided on a suspension.

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After the meeting, Peter Aston, West Sussex Trading Standards Team Manager, said: “Despite us having visited the store to raise concerns about underage sales, a member of staff still sold alcohol to our child volunteer. All licensed premises are required to have an age verification policy in place and it’s important staff are aware what are acceptable forms of identification and when it should be asked for. We strongly recommend retailers operate a ‘Challenge 25’ policy and support their staff to follow it.

"West Sussex Trading Standards has a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to the sale of alcohol to children and where we have sufficient evidence to show this has taken place, we will seek a review of the business’s alcohol licence with the aim of having the licence suspended or revoked. I hope this case sends out a strong message to retailers that there are serious consequences, which could put their business at risk, if they flout the law.”

Duncan Crow, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire & Rescue, added: “It’s important we all work together to keep our children and communities safe. Trading Standards will continue to respond to allegations of age restricted products being sold to children by shops in West Sussex, so in the run up to Christmas I strongly encourage all businesses who sell age restricted products to use this time to make sure they have good age verification checks in place. West Sussex Trading Standards will continue to undertake test purchasing exercises with child volunteers across the county to uncover businesses selling age restricted products to children. Disappointingly, eight further shops were visited recently and of those, four sold alcohol to our child volunteer.”

Anyone who believes a shop is selling alcohol, tobacco, vapes or knives to under 18s can report it online.

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