Cardiff North AM Julie Morgan has jumped to the defence of a store which could tomorrow be stripped of its licence to sell alcohol as part of a police crackdown on street drinkers.
The Labour Assembly Member accused South Wales Police of using a “sledgehammer to crack a nut” by applying for a review of the shop’s alcohol licence.
The force applied for a review of the Wood Street Convenience store’s licence, citing two incidents in May in which they claim men drank booze inside the shop.
The alleged incidents came just weeks after police warned off-licences in the city centre to stop serving known street drinkers or risk losing their licence.
The force’s version of events, however, are disputed by the shop’s owners, Dr Sarju Patel and his wife Darsha Patel, whom Mrs Morgan describes as “respectable and decent” people.
In a letter to Cardiff council she says the couple fully support the crackdown on street drinking, which has increased since the relocation of the Huggard Centre to Custom House Street, off St Mary Street.
But she said police needed to understand the difficulty shopworkers face in deciding whether someone is a street drinker who should not be served.
“Simply because somebody is not smartly dressed does not make them a street drinker,” Mrs Morgan wrote.
“My constituents’ staff have turned away people who they suspect to be street drinkers intent on getting drunk only to be advised by the police afterwards, following the customer becoming angry, that the person concerned is not one of the troublesome group.”
The Patels said, after licensing officer Sergeant Scott Lloyd warned staff about problem drinkers in April, they requested photographs to help them identify the culprits.
Police did eventually provide the photographs last month, but by that stage the force had already applied for the licence review.
Mrs Morgan says CCTV footage proved the first alleged incident of drinking in the shop never happened and claimed staff did not see the second incident.
Dr Patel, who has owned the shop since 2008, said losing the alcohol licence would be “devastating”. He said: “You could not run the business without a licence.”
The Cardiff University lecturer said his shop was not the cause of the street drinking problem as he sold at a premium price.
Mrs Patel said: “We do not serve street drinkers. I work on the shop front so I know what it’s like to refuse a sale. You have stuff thrown at you and get so much abuse.”
The review will be considered by the council’s sub-licensing committee. A police spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate to comment ahead of the meeting.