A SHOP accused of selling alcohol to street drinkers was caught serving a homeless person who had just drunkenly walked into the side of a bus, councillors heard.

Police requested a review of Border Store’s 24-hour alcohol licence after reports it was serving street drinkers who congregate in Norfolk Square, Brighton, near the Western Road off licence.

But the owners told a licensing panel they had “grasped the nettle” and cleaned up their act.

The panel heard that police and the council’s licensing officers took a closer interest in the shop after receiving a complaint from a member of the public.

A women who was seen staggering around the shop on October 8 last year was helped with her alcohol selection by a member of staff.

It is illegal to knowingly sell alcohol to a person who is drunk and a conviction can result in a fine of up to £1,000 and a loss of licence.

Sussex Police licensing officer Claire Abdelkader spoke about another incident of concern to the force.

Nine days after the incident involving the drunk woman, a police officer on foot patrol in Western Road, went to an accident involving a man and a double decker bus.

Paramedics tried to help the man but he kept saying “leave me alone” and “I’m fine”.

Mrs Abdelkader quoted the officer’s report to the panel chaired by Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn, with Conservative Dee Simson and Green Steve Davis.

She said: “He smelled strongly of beer.

“I recognised the male as he regularly comes to notice for drinking in public and causing a nuisance. I tried to get details from him but he walked off. Myself and paramedics decided as he did not appear to have major injuries or wanted to engage with us, then we would let him leave.

“As I was discussing this I saw him enter Border Store. He was still unsteady on his feet.

“As he exited I would see that the item was a can of Stella Artois.

“He then stumbled east along Western Road towards Norfolk Square.”

Other incidents of concern included the shop’s licence not on display, broken CCTV and problems with retrieving footage.

City council licensing officer Donna Lynsdale visited the shop and wrote to the owner and designated premises supervisor Sameer Phillips about issues with sales to people who were drunk and failure to fill in the “refusals book”.

Ms Lynsdale said the authority wanted the licence removed as it did not feel the business “promoted the licensing objectives” of preventing crime and disorder and prevention of public nuisance.

She said: “This premises has a long history of breaching license conditions and poor management.

“I have made numerous visits to the premises reminding them of the problems in Norfolk Square and not to sell to intoxicated customers.”

She said she had never seen the off-licence counter open, which is a requirement of its condition.

Although it is not the only off-licence in the area, Ms Lynsdale told the panel it receives the most complaints from members of the public.

Specialist licensing barrister for The Border Store, Piers Warne, told the panel the owners had “grasped the nettle” to deal with issues.

He said: “The premises licence holders totally agree something needs to be done about street drinking issues, not just in Norfolk Square but other places around.

“When people move on they are going somewhere else. This is a problem that is transient.

“It is a problem that needs to be resolved because it does their business no good either.”

Mr Warne said when staff at the shop had refused to sell alcohol to people who drink in the square, they have been seen going to other shops.

Both Sussex Police and the council want the licence removed, but had put forward suggested conditions of no single can sales, marking alcohol sold in the shop and limiting booze sales from 10am to 10pm.

The business has a historic 24 hour licence and has been run by Sameer and Miranda Phillips for 20 years.

Mr Warne said the couple were willing to suspend alcohol sales and reorganise the shop to prove it was not solely responsible for street drinking.

He said: “It is the task of Sisyphus to keep people out of the store and refuse them service. We do our best, as other premises do.

“Singling out one premises is unfair. We have held out hands up when we make mistakes, the nettle has been grasped and we look to working with the police.”

He down played as minor the breaking of conditions by leaving the off-licence counter unmanned at the back of the shop, a historic condition on the licence which dates from 2006.

The argument was the main counter was close by and the shop was too small to sustain the wages of two staff.

Councillor O’Quinn was concerned that staff and the owners did not understand licensing policy.

She said: “It is a huge responsibility to sell alcohol in the city.

“Especially in an area such as this, it’s a massive responsibility. This is why we would not grant a licence for a new licence.

“Now there is compliance but this took repeated visits.”

Councillor Simson raised the issue of the problems of strong alcohol sold to street drinkers and people with alcohol problems who congregate in Norfolk Square.

She said: “Someone coming into the store who came in at 10am to buy a bottle of Lambrini and then coming back at midday and buying another bottle of Lambrini and then coming back at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

“Why are alarm bells not ringing?”

The panel’s decision on whether to amend or remove the licence will be issued shortly.