A Tesco Express store in West Sussex has had its licence to sell alcohol suspended for one month - but local residents and businesses may have to foot the bill for the legal costs of imposing the ban.
The store in Downland Drive, Crawley, was targeted in last October's crackdown on sales of alcohol to under-18s. It was one of only two out of the 189 stores visited to fail three test purchases in a three-week period. Tesco appealed against the local authority's decision to impose a ban and, although an initial hearing earlier this year was delayed until July in order to cope with the large volume of documentation submitted, the multiple withdrew its objection a day before the case was due to be heard in court.
Sussex Police violent crime reduction manager Jean Irving told Convenience Store that the local authority would be left with the costs of the nine-month fight to uphold the ban.
She said: "Everyone is entitled to a fair hearing, but I take umbrage at the fact that Tesco pursued its objection to the ban until the last minute, then backed down. Crawley Borough Council has had to spend a lot of money to fight the appeal and that comes out of public funds. So who pays for that? The local people."
Irving added: "I thought Tesco got off lightly - I believe that if the case had gone to court the judge would have given more than a month's ban."
Crawley Borough Council wouldn't comment as Tesco's appeal against a licence suspension at another store in the area is still to be heard. Tesco declined to comment.