Highbury shopkeeper denies selling rum to boy, 15, as councillors prepare to review his booze licence
PUBLISHED: 16:52 30 July 2019
A Highbury shopkeeper accused of "hospitalising" a minor by selling him a bottle of Bacardi claims it's a spurious charge that could "cost my family everything".
Mehmet Altun's shop Shivas in Highbury Park will be the subject of a licence review on Tuesday, after a social worker claimed he "repeatedly" sold booze to the 15-year-old. The teen was reportedly hospitalised three times in 10 days due to drinking.
Mr Altun insists he never sold the boy anything.
Inspectors first visited Shivas on May 29, noting in a report to be considered by councillors next week that Mr Altun "appeared unaware it is an offence to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 18". It's alleged Mr Altun was "extremely aggressive and argumentative with officers" on this occasion. He told the Gazette he refutes these "ridiculous" suggestions, claiming he spoke calmly. Officers also found "illicit" Polish Perla beer for sale.
The social worker made her allegations against Mr Altun the next day, before Mr Altun fell for a Trading Standards sting by selling a can of Guinness to a 15-year-old on June 4. But the shopkeeper said the teen had a cap pulled over his face, and he was distracted by the officer who followed him into the shop, who was allegedly "staring" at him.
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"They treated me like a proper criminal," he told the Gazette. "I didn't know what to say - I was shocked. It was an undercover trap.
"Usually kids come in on their own, not with adults. I thought they were together. I never served any kids when they came in."
He said he's since spent £700 on new cameras, enrolled in training courses, is keeping a "refusal log" and has stopped stocking high percentage beers.
He added: "If they take that licence away from me my bank will put pressure on me - it's going to break my whole family,
"All I can do is say: 'Look, if I have done something wrong I'm sorry,' but I don't believe I have. It was a professional trap."
An Islington licensing police spokesperson said: "During the visit the underage person that purchased alcohol was not challenged in the slightest despite staff having ample time to do so, and at the time there was [sic] hardly any patrons in the venue so there would have been very little distractions [sic]."
Islington's licensing team, Public Health England and the borough's licensing police have made representations against Shivas.