Ilford off-licence sold alcohol for six years without a licence due to mistake

An off-licence on Ilford High Road may no longer be able to sell alcohol 24 hours a day after the council discovered it had not had a licence for six years due to a mistake.

The alcohol licence for Azad Food Centre was registered to a business the owner, Salman Yalcinkaya, dissolved in 2014, reportedly failing to realise his licence was not in his name.

Council officers told the licensing committee yesterday (June 25) that approving a replacement 24-hour licence could contribute to street drinking and anti-social behaviour in the area.

Mr Yalcinkaya insisted he does not sell to street drinkers as they could scare away other customers and that his business will not make a profit if he cannot sell alcohol at night.

Licensing enforcement officer Priya Cheema insisted the shop did contribute to street drinking, adding that it was the only premises selling alcohol 24 hours a day in the area.

She claimed that while in the area for three days in early March she had seen a “large gathering outside the premises of people drinking” who were “going in and out of the shop”.

She said: “We are being told the shop is not contributing to street drinking, but I have seen something different. More efforts need to be made by Mr Yalcinkaya to prevent that happening.”

The council’s interim head of licensing Ed Chaplin agreed with her assessment, telling the committee Mr Yalcinkaya “does not really have what it takes to operate an alcohol licence”.

He visited the shop last year while encouraging businesses to voluntarily stop selling high-strength beers and ciders and found him “uncooperative” and unwilling to participate.

The business’ lawyer said the shop did later stop selling high-strength beer and cider, but Mr Chaplin claimed he saw such products in the fridge when he visited again in April this year.

Police data shows that in the year from November 27, 2018 to 2019 there were 211 anti-social behaviour incidents in Ilford town centre between midnight and 8am.

The licensing enforcement team advised the council to give the shop a licence to sell alcohol from 8am until 11pm Monday to Saturday and until 10.30pm on Sunday.

Mr Yalcinkaya warned that such a change would stop him from making a profit and could force him to sack three employees.

In his submission to the council he wrote: “I have struggled since the alcohol sales have stopped. I have been relying on grants and savings. The business has relied on alcohol sales and it is the difference between profit and loss.

“I do not sell to street drinkers. Some of my customers may appear to some to have the appearance of street drinkers but they live in the area.

“It is not in my interest to sell street drinkers alcohol as they will hang around and affect my customers.”

He said he had asked people congregating outside his store to move away but that they had refused and said it was “down to the council”.

He estimated his shop earns £1,000 from alcohol a day, with around half of these sales between midnight and 8am, which he said was largely to cab drivers and road or rail workers.

Mr Yalcinkaya requested that, if he could not sell alcohol 24 hours, he at least be allowed to continue selling until midnight or 2am.

His lawyer Robert Sutherland said residents were “supportive” of the shop, drawing the committee’s attention to a petition with 88 signatures calling on the council to grant the licence.

One customer, Ola Shadare, wrote to the council to “confirm that Salman and his team have always asked [street drinkers] to move on and not congregate there”.

He added: “I would suggest that the local PCSOs and police should patrol the area more frequently and give the store the support that it may need in moving these delinquents on as they have been risking their own safety in confronting these delinquents.”

The committee will consider the evidence submitted by both sides and issue a decision by July 2.

Selling alcohol without a licence is an offence that could result in imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Redbridge Council has yet to confirm if there are plans to prosecute Mr Yalcinkaya, although no mention was made of this at the meeting.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter