Gulinder Singh Chopra acquired the Todays Express at 17 Duke Street in Reading shortly after the licence to sell alcohol at the store was revoked by Reading Borough Council in February.
He swiftly submitted a licensing application to restore the ability to sell alcohol at the store from 8am to 11pm each day.
During a licensing committee meeting, Mr Chopra’s legal representative Bill Donne of Silver Fox Consultants argued that Mr Chopra has ambitious plans to improve the business.
These plans included the intention to serve Indian foods as well a regular convenience store products, and primarily serve customers living in nearby apartments, in an effort to make the business more up market.
Mr Donne said: “He [Mr Chopra] is certainly not interested in the bottom end of the market.”
However, Mr Donne clashed with licensing officers over the ability to sell stronger beers and ciders.
“We want a range of products, and some of them will be higher strength, as some of them will be sipping beers.
“We want flexibility.
“What we don’t want to sell is big plastic bottles of strong cider.”
Mr Chopra was seeking to sell individual bottles and cans and stronger beers and ciders at 6.5 per cent ABV and higher, against the recommendations of Thames Valley Police licensing officer PC Declan Smyth and council licensing officer Robert Smalley, who both called for cans and bottles of four or more only and a ban on strong beer and alcohol sales.
Such bans were disputed by Mr Donne.
He said: “This is such a heavy handed approach.
“More people are drinking at home.
“Why are you denying the public to buy the alcohol they want but restricting drinks at 6.5 per cent ABV or more? It’s nonsense.”
Mr Donne argued that the problem lies with strong cheap alcohol rather than premium products like stronger beers and ciders, with Weston’s Cider being repeatedly referred to as its trademark vintage cider is at 8.2 per cent ABV.
There were also questions over the definition of craft beer brands like BrewDog, with Indian Pale Ales that typically have higher alcohol content.
That prompted questions by PC Smyth who questioned which suppliers Mr Chopra would use.
PC Smyth pointed out that only five per cent of the beers offered by Reading breweries Double-Barrelled and Phantom Brewery and Rebellion Beer Company from Marlow are at 6.5 per cent IBV or above.
PC Smyth also said the Tesco Express in Market Place does not sell beers and ciders at 6.5 per cent ABV and over to prevent anti-social behaviour.
But Mr Donne replied stronger alcohol is sold at M&A Convenience Store at the start of Duke Street and Sainsbury’s in Broad Street, just a two-minute walk away.
Mr Donne fundamentally argued banning single can and bottle sales and limiting “anti-competitive.”
The main complaint of licensing officers was that the sale of individual drinks and strong alcohol can subvert licensing objectives to prevent crime and disorder.
Previous owner Quais Aziz had the alcohol licence for Today’s Express revoked after being criticised for selling individual drinks cans, as well as alleged violent incidents and alleged sale of stolen goods.
It was admitted that some individuals had come into Today’s Express offering to sell items to Mr Chopra. However, Mr Chopra argued that improvements have been made since the licence was revoked.
This involved children coming into the store for ice cream and sweets and ‘street drinkers’ being put off from going in as Mr Chopra could no longer sell alcohol to them.
Additionally modern CCTV has been added to the front and in the store room.
Depsite this, there was a crime incident on Saturday, March 4 where a charity box was stolen and a chewing gum dispenser damaged.
While Mr Chopra reported the incident to the police, he did not decide to pursue the case.
Mr Donne apologised on his behalf, and said: “If there’s a crime reported, he will see it through.”
Ultimately, the committee granted the licensing application but with all 22 conditions suggested by PC Smyth and Mr Smalley.
This means drinks must be sold in multi packs of four or more and imposes a ban on selling alcohol at or above 6.5 per cent ABV.
The decision was made by councillors Paul Woodward (Labour, Church), Deborah Edwards (Labour, Southcote) and Doug Creswell (Green, Katesgrove) at the meeting on Thursday, April 27.