Catford Food Centre, 91 Rushey Green, Catford, London, SE6 4AF
Lewisham LBC, Licensing Committee
Application for variation of premises licence
31 October 2023
1. FK Food Centre Ltd (“the Applicant”) has applied for a variation to its existing premises licence for Catford Food Centre, 91 Rushey Green, Catford, London, SE6 4AF (“the Premises”).
2. The application proposes to remove the condition on the current licence at Annex 3, number 1, which states;
'Mr Hassan Sircan is not to be allowed in the premises whilst it is open for licensable activities and during all times when customers remain on the premises'
And to replace this condition with:
'Mr Hassan Sircan will be excluded from any involvement in the ownership and/or
management of the business but he is permitted to be employed on the premises'
3. Relevant representations were received from two Responsible Authorities; The Police and the Licensing Authority on the grounds of Prevention of Crime and Disorder and Public Safety. The Licensing Committee held a hearing 31 October 2023 to consider the application.
4. The Applicants representative brought to the Committee’s attention the most recent statutory guidance published as per section 182 of Licensing Act 2003, drawing particular attention to paragraph 2.5;
5. “Conditions relating to the management competency of designated premises supervisors should not normally be attached to premises licences. It will normally be the responsibility of the premises licence holder as an employer, and not the licensing authority, to ensure that the managers appointed at the premises are competent and appropriately trained. The designated premises supervisor is the key person who will usually be responsible for the day to day management of the premises by the premises licence holder, including the prevention of disorder. A condition of this kind may only be justified as appropriate in rare circumstances where it can be demonstrated that, in the circumstances associated with particular premises, poor management competency could give rise to issues of crime and disorder and public safety.”
6. In raising the above, the Applicant was drawing the distinction that the Application seeks to modify a condition that the guidance says ought to be the responsibility for the Premises Licence Holder and not that of the Licensing Authority.
7. The committee should consider that in determining the application that the condition offered would mean that Mr Sircan would never be left alone in the Premises unsupervised and thus there be no negative impact on upholding the Licensing Objectives.
8. It was accepted that Mr Sircan was previously involved in the employment of illegal workers and subject to a fixed penalty notice as a result. It was submitted that the incident referred to dated back to 4 years ago, and that under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (“the ROA”), such a disposal would only be held against or have an adverse impact on Mr Sircan for one year.
9. It was submitted that Mr Sircan is not applying to become the Premises Licence Holder, neither the Designated Premises Supervisor and this was Application from the current Premises Licence Holder to employ Mr Sircan under supervision.
10.It was noted that there had been no representations made by any Responsible Authority about the current management of the Premises or the Premises Licence Holder.
11.The Committee should also note that the Application was made one day after an extensive visit by the Licensing Authority where by at least eight officers attended the Premises, the equivalent of a ‘raid’. The staff, CCTV, alcohol and tobacco. No concerns were identified and the business has been run and will continue to be run impeccably.
12.The representative submitted that Mr Sircan will be supervised at all times and the Licensing Objectives will not be undermined.
13.The Business Rates are paid by F K Food Centre Limited from the company business account and this has been confirmed by the accountant in writing. It appears that Mr Sircan’s name is on the bill but F K Food Centre Limited retain the actual liability. The issue around not discharging Mr Sircans liability is merely clerical issue of the Council rates department.
14.Moreover, during the Covid pandemic, the relevant relief grants were paid direct to the Company, whom the Applicant is the sole director and shareholder.
The Licensing Authority
15.The Licensing Authority accept that there have been no complaints in relation to the Premises in the last four years, however, there are concerns as to why Mr Sircan remains liable on the Business Rates account. There would have been an expectation that he would’ve had himself removed from such liability.
16.There are also concerns around how there is sufficient staff to supervise Mr Sircan and how the practicalities of how that supervision would be undertaken.
17.The Licensing Authority sympathise with Mr Sircans situation but acknowledge that the reason for agreeing the condition to exclude him was for a serious reason and the Licensing Authority have to ensure that the right persons are in the right roles to ensure the Licensing Objectives are upheld.
18.The Committee was initially brought for employing illegal workers and blatantly breaking the law, this has other implications such as people trafficking.
19.The Police also acknowledge that given the Annexe 3 condition was included and agreed by the Parties, the Licensing Committee would be the appropriate forum for the condition to be varied or modified.
20.The Police acknowledge Mr Sircans current position but say that the Committee should also consider the fact that this is a 24-hour flagship store in the Borough, a licence not often granted. They would be concerned with Mr Sircan having any part of the business. It is also difficult to understand how, practically, the supervision would be undertaken.
21.The Police accept there is no other history in relation to the current licence for the past 4 years, the only history relates to the previous Premises Licence Holder.
22. Having considered the written and oral evidence and representations made by the parties, the Committee has decided to refuse the application for a variation. Its reasons are as follows:
· The Committee were not satisfied that if the variation was granted, the Licensing Objective of the prevention of crime and disorder would be upheld.
· The Committee considered that whilst the incident relating to the previous breach to the licence conditions was historic, it was serious enough to require the said Licence Condition having been agreed at the time.
· The Committee considered that the condition was agreed following a revocation decision by the Committee and that the breach was significant enough to warrant a revocation since this only happens in the most serious cases.
· It noted that given the good track record since this condition was added, it was satisfied that the condition necessary to promote the Licensing Objectives.
· It considered the statutory guidance issued under section 182 of Licensing Act 2003 and the necessity to depart from the guidance for the promotion of the Licensing Objectives.
· The Committee were not satisfied with the rationale provided in relation to the Business Rates liability and were of the view that Mr Sircan may have continued to have some involvement with the business.
· The Committee did not make any finding of fact in relation to the relationship and/or involvement but noted there was sufficient evidence to suggest an indication of involvement.
· It considered the provisions relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (“the ROA”) and how the principles could be applied to this Application.
· It accepted as a matter of law that under the ROA, criminal convictions can become spent or ignored after a rehabilitation period.
· It noted that the ROA was concerned with those previously convicted of offences and how they would be treated following a period of ‘rehabilitation’.
· On balance, the Committee considered the purpose of its function and how that related to promoting Licensing Objectives of Premises as such, the ROA is merely persuasive but not binding on how the Committee reaches its decision where a condition relates to the exclusion of a person.
· The Committee sympathised with Mr Sircan’s situation but emphasised its primary function was to ensure the promotion of licensing objectives and that it could not be satisfied that allowing the variation would do that.
23.There is a right of appeal against this decision. Any appeal should be made to the magistrates’ court within 21 days beginning with the day on which the appellant was notified of this decision.