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Cafe refused licence to operate after claims of illegal gambling and 'no confidence' in manager

A cafe in Handsworth has been refused an alcohol licence by a council which claimed it has “no confidence whatsoever” in the standard of management, and made allegations of illegal gambling.

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Violet Cafe.

Violet, based on Holyhead Road - not far from West Bromwich - had applied to Birmingham Council for an alcohol licence to sell drinks until 11pm Monday to Sunday, and open from 8am to 11.30pm.

The applicant, Evelina-Elena Bejenaru, did not appear at a licensing committee this month, and was not represented.

Phillip Southern, a police sergeant stationed at Handsworth police station, said the cafe’s close proximity to social housing draws people with “complex, unsupported needs, who live chaotic lives”.

In a witness statement provided to the licensing committee, he said: “As part of our work on the Soho Road and Holyhead Road, it has become apparent, due in part to [the cafe’s] proximity to social housing, that the location draws individuals who engage in a range of activities that contribute to public nuisance, crime, and disorder.

“It includes drug-taking, public drunkenness and disorderly behaviour, prostitution and associated public indecency, and persistent begging.

“Crime ranging from shoplifting to public place violence, including the use of weapons and resulting in serious injuries – up to attempted murder and grievous bodily harm.”

Mr Southern said the area was one of the highest demand areas for West Midlands Police and noted despite interventions from the police and Birmingham City Council, “criminality is persistent and ongoing even whilst police are conducting said operations”.

Mani Gill, a director of Soho Road Business Improvement District (BID), said the cafe was first brought to his attention after seeing dominoes and gambling under an “open canopy” individuals had built.

He said: “They were gambling with playing cards, some dominoes outside under a canopy that they’ve built on public highway. So it’s in the vision of all passing trade and in the vision of schoolchildren.

“We have three schools within the facility. The children can actually view that happening outside in the open because there’s an open canopy. They were drinking. It was loud.

“They were smoking shisha pipes inside the area of the shop. And that’s when that’s when I bought it to the attention of the police and licensing team to say we have concerns.”

The licensing committee heard Evelina-Elena Bejenaru had already demonstrated “something of a cavalier attitude” towards trading within the requirements of the law.

Other members of the Soho BID told the licensing committee there was a “serious problem with street drinking” in the local area, and expressed worry if a licence were to be granted to Violet cafe, “this would be very likely to exacerbate street drinking and the associated antisocial behaviour” of the area.

Doug Wright, licensing officer for Birmingham City Council, told the licencing committee he had “discovered alcohol on the premises, and also two gaming machines” without a licence, when he visited the cafe in September.

But he said he did not witness “gambling with cards going on outside”, nor the smoking of shisha compared to the two representatives from the Soho BID.

In its deliberations, councillors at the licensing committee concluded: “Were the licence to be granted, the significant negative impact on the local area which was highly likely to arise, was not proportionate in relation to any type of ‘benefit’ that could be offered to the community; nor could the licence be appropriately conditioned.

“The core issue was whether the applicant and the proposed operating schedule were capable of ensuring that the licensing objectives would be upheld.

“The sub-committee had no confidence whatsoever that this would be the case, especially not after hearing that trading was already being carried on without the necessary licences being in place.”

There is the right of appeal against the decision of the Licensing Authority under Schedule 5 of the Licensing Act 2003 to the Magistrates’ court. An appeal can be made within 21 days of the date of notification of the decision.