Shops 'used for illegal drinking'
Council officials are investigating shopkeepers thought to be operating illegal drinking dens.
Leicester City Council believes a small number of off-licence owners are allowing people to drink on their premises.
In one case, the authority said it suspected a shopkeeper had opened his cellar to his customers.
In other cases, it believes, drinkers are gathering on the shop floor or in other rooms inside the shops.
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Off-licences are only permitted to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises.
Failure to observe the legal conditions contained in their licences can result in shops being fined or having their right to sell alcohol removed.
One shop owner is to appear before the city council's licensing panel next month.
The owner is alleged to have created an ad hoc bar in his cellar.
Bobby Smiljanic, of the city council's licensing team, said the authority had dealt with similar cases in the past but that it appeared to be a growing problem.
She said: "Apparently, a small number of off-licences are doing this. It's new and it seems to have crept in recently.
"Their licences do not allow them to serve alcohol on the premises and we obviously have concerns about what could happen if there was some kind of incident in one of these shops, even a fire."
Pc Tejas Mavani, of city police's licensing team, said: "It seems to be an attempt to bypass the licensing laws and, as far as we know, it is only a small number of shops involved.
"It still needs to be curbed and we will be doing checks and visiting shops to ensure they are adhering to their licences."
Subhash Varambhia, of Snutch News, in Fosse Road South, Leicester, said: "I have never heard of any shops doing this. If these shopkeepers want to run bars, they should apply to open bars.
"They have to realise the risks they are taking and what is at stake. They could lose their licences if they are caught allowing people to drink alcohol in their shops.
"But also things could easily get out of hand if the people they are letting in drink too much.
"These people are shopkeepers, not publicans, who can tell people they are not serving them because they've already had too much to drink.
"People are finding it difficult in the current economic climate and they are buying more booze, particularly the cheap stuff."