By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — A store that police said sold alcohol to minors several times has given up its liquor license.
Bradford Shell sold its license to another business in the city.
The sale marks the final chapter of a story that pitted the business against police and the city’s License Commission after the store was caught selling alcohol to minors for the sixth time since 2002, according to investigators.
When the License Commission met last Thursday, Chairman Joseph Edwards and commissioners Gerald Sewell and Tim Coco unanimously approved the sale of Bradford Shell’s liquor license to QwikMart, a convenience store and gas station at 764 Main St.
“It’s a new owner who we’ve had good experience with at other locations in the city,” Coco said. “I did not anticipate this (the request to sell the license) but apparently sometime between meetings it was placed on the agenda.”
When the Eagle-Tribune contacted Bradford Shell, an employee said the business is now owned by Nouria Energy. According the company’s website, Nouria Energy manages more than 50 service stations in New England. Bradford Shell, 154 S. Main St., is a gas station and convenience store in Central Square in the city’s Bradford section.
Coco said QwikMart’s attorney Theodore Xenakis of Haverhill presented a “very complete” 78-page application that answered most if not all of the commission’s questions at last week’s meeting.
Coco said one of the few questions asked came from commission member Sewell, who was curious about whether there is enough space in the QwikMart building to sell alcoholic beverages. Coco said the owner indicated he was going to remove a coffee sales area to make room because the business wasn’t selling much coffee. A Dunkin Donuts is on the opposite side of Main Street from the QwikMart.
“I give credit to Attorney Xenakis as he pointed out there were very few package stores in that area of the city,” Coco said. “He also noted there were no churches or schools in that immediate area and showed us photos of the inside of the store. It was a very complete application.”
Coco said that according to the agreement that was part of the application, the license was sold for $30,000 to Saminder Inc., which does business as QwikMart, and is owned by Inderpal S. Gill.
“QwikMart seems like a responsible business and the owner was very prepared with a very complete application that answered all questions,” Coco said.
Last February, the commission revoked the license of Saba Foodmart Inc., which operated under the name Bradford Shell, after a store clerk was caught several months prior in a police sting selling alcohol to a minor for the sixth time since 2002. But the owner, Aziz Saba, appealed to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, which rejected the city’s decision.
Instead, state alcohol officials recommended the city change Bradford Shell’s punishment to a 20-day suspension, with 10 days to be served and 10 days to be suspended for three years.
At a special meeting last September, the city’s License Commission voted 3-0 to restore Bradford Shell’s license to sell beer and wine.
At that hearing, City Solicitor William Cox told commissioners they could not permanently revoke a business license if the action is rejected by the state. Cox recommended Bradford’s Shell’s punishment be changed from revocation to 221-day suspension — the number of days between when the commission revoked the license in February and when it was returned at the September hearing.
If the case went to court, Cox said the city would not only be on the hook for legal fees, but also would face the possibility of losing a judgement for lost sales and other financial damages to the business. In the September 2011 sting, a Bradford Shell store clerk sold a six-pack of Bud Light to an underage volunteer working with police, investigators said. The establishment was one of 25 licensed businesses — out of the city’s roughly 100 bars, restaurants and package stores — caught selling alcohol to minors in the citywide sting, but the only business to have its license permanently revoked due its history of similar violations.
Police have said the establishment had a reputation for being an “easy” place for teens to buy alcohol.