Licence lost over sale of vodka

A liquor store manager's excuse that he sold booze to a 17-year-old because he was in shock after his best friend's death, failed to impress police - because he couldn't remember his mate's name.

Police have successfully sought cancellation of a Ngaio bottle shop's liquor licence, meaning it will be unable to sell alcohol from July 14.

The Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority, which heard the case on May 20, ruled in favour of the police submission that Thirsty Liquor should lose its off-licence after a staffer sold alcohol to a 17-year-old in a sting last October.

In its recently published decision, the authority noted a string of licence breaches and warnings associated with the store's owner.

Sergeant Terence Fraser told the authority that Natvar Patel - whose company Tree Top Lane owns the store in Khandallah Rd, Ngaio, and Cuba Superette in central Wellington - needed to concentrate on just one business until he could prove he could manage two licensed premises.

Patel was unaware of the cancellation of his licence when The Dominion Post contacted him yesterday, and he said he was unable to comment on what he planned to do with the store. According to the decision, the 17-year-old boy bought a four-pack of Vodka Cruisers from Thirsty Liquor's duty manager on October 25.

According to the hearing notes, the manager admitted selling the alcohol without getting proof of the customer's age.

He explained to police that he thought the 17-year-old looked 18. The manager said he had held a general manager's certificate for nine years and this was his first infringement.

Later he testified that he had received a phone call from Singapore only hours before the incident, saying his "very close and best mate" had died, which left him in shock. He admitted he had not told Fraser of the death when first interviewed, and when questioned further he could not recall his friend's surname.

The authority noted that Patel had a "bad history" in his involvement in licensed premises. The most recent incident before the authority was the fifth affecting a business operated by him in the past seven years, and the fourth within the past three years.

Only two days before the sting, the authority had handed down a 12-day suspension of Thirsty Liquor's off-licence as well as a 90-day suspension of Patel's manager's certificate, after the store was caught selling alcohol to a 15-year-old girl.

The Dominion Post