It went badly wrong for Nimit Patel, who bought Clocktower Express in Gravesend, Essex, almost a year ago. The handover involved a large quantity of spirits, which Nimit bought in good faith.
A few months later HMRC paid a visit with the police and 126 1ltr bottles of non-duty paid spirits were confiscated. As a result of this, and two alleged breaches of the conditions of the premises licence, the police applied for a review of the licence. The upshot was Gravesham Borough Council decided to suspend Nimit’s licence for three months.
This story has not been related to me by Nimit, but by Stewart Gibson, a licence agent working as GP Retail Services and specialising in advising/rescuing independent retailers who find themselves afoul of the law through no fault of their own.
Nimit was in the middle of a major refit, having spent a six-figure sum on upgrading the premises.
“To open his newly-refitted store without alcohol on sale would severely hinder his chances of success and mean the investment he had made could have been a waste of money,” says Stewart.
He represented Nimit at the appeal at Dartford Magistrates Court. The court’s starting point was ‘guilty as charged’. As you have already guessed, it was overturned and Nimit’s store thrives.
The story is interesting in an unusual way. Stewart Gibson has no legal training, but he has noticed a gap in the market if you like. He has been a licensing agent since 2001, first with Londis, then Boots. Initially he stayed out of courts because he was told he would have to be a solicitor to represent clients.
All this changed last year when he was approached by a Londis retailer who was being taken to court over an alleged fireworks infringement. Stewart says: “I was his only hope as he couldn’t afford a barrister.” The retailer got an unconditional discharge.
This was a Eureka moment for Stewart. Now he seeks the court’s permission to speak on behalf of clients and he has had other successes since.
The main point is: he is far cheaper than a barrister. So if you have a tricky case coming up, give him a call on 01476 589250.