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Vegan shop’s bid to sell alcohol sparks concern

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A VEGAN grocery store has applied for a licence to sell alcoholic drinks but faces stiff opposition.

The owners of the newly opened Captain Pig, in Church Street, Brighton, want to be able to sell vegan beer, cider and wine from 9am to 6.30pm each day.

But the North Laine Community Association has objected to the application – as has the licensing team at Brighton and Hove City Council.

A council licensing panel is due to hear the case for and against the application at Hove Town Hall on Friday.

A report to the panel said the shop was within Brighton and Hove’s “cumulative impact area” where the number of licensed premises has reached “saturation point”.

The council’s policy is to refuse new applications for a drinks licence if objections are received, unless owners can show their premises will not add to the cumulative impact of crime and disorder and public nuisance.

Rob White, co-owner of Captain Pig, said the shop would offer a unique service, with customers able to choose vegan alcoholic drinks from a locked cabinet.

Mr White said: “A lot of people have said it will make life so much easier for them, especially with the craft beers and ciders. Offering this means people do not have to compromise their deeply held beliefs.”

He and partner Claire Sedgwick started a petition in support of the application, with more than 60 people signing it within days of the shop opening on Saturday.

The North Laine Community Association said: “Since the introduction of flexible opening hours in 2003, residents have had to put up with increased levels of noise from drinkers during the day as well as at night, leading to increased levels of

antisocial behaviour and vandalism.

“There are many off-licences in our conservation area, two of which are 24 hours.

“The North Laine Conservation Area, an area 600m by 600m bordered by Trafalgar Street and Church Street, is a densely residential area that suffers from antisocial behaviour, crime and disorder and street drinking which affects our community and the environment.”

The association said there were 76 licensed businesses in the area – up from 20 in 2005 – and a new one would add to the existing problems.

Council licensing officer Emma Bullen said: “The premises sits within the electoral ward of St Peter’s and North Laine which … under ‘crime and disorder’ data is second worst out of 21 wards for all violence against the person, all injury violence, non-injury assault and sexual offences.

“It is also worst for criminal damage and police-recorded alcohol-related incidents.

The premises sits in the ward ranked worst for alcohol-suspected ambulance call-outs.”

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'Fixing paperwork' gets Spice Merchant highest hygiene rating

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A CURRY shop owner is delighted to have the highest possible hygiene rating after “fixing paperwork”.

Spice Merchant in Montefiore Road, Hove, was told in May by hygiene inspectors that “major improvement” was needed at the restaurant.

Abdul Noor, manager of the Indian takeaway, said by sorting out his paperwork the hygiene rating was upgraded from “one” to “five”.

And he is now calling on the council to improve education to ensure business owners know what to do.

Mr Noor, who runs the business with his brother, said: “We have been in restaurants for a good 20 years so we’re thinking what we’re doing was the right thing.

“But this time, they said I needed these two books – everyone needs to have these two books – but why did no one inform me?

“Most of our customers are our friends, they come in and say, ‘one star, for what?’.

“It was all about paperwork.

“My question is – for people running a business for the first time, how are they supposed to know about all this stuff?

The takeaway, which is popular on online takeaway app Just Eat, was

originally visited on May 7 this year.

It was told it needed to improve hygienic food handling and the cleanliness and condition of facilities and building.

But, inspectors said, “major improvement” in the management of food safety was needed.

This included making sure systems or checks were in place to ensure that food sold or served is safe to eat, evidence that staff know about food safety and the food safety officer has confidence that standards will be maintained in future.

Mr Noor said the takeaway was marked down for not having “Safer Food, Better Business” books – an official log book showing food safety checks have been done and other information – despite having their own diaries.

He said: “I had a visit last year and I was given four stars, he said I needed the book.

“But throughout the year they never told me which book to have.

“Now, I’ve learnt the hard way and I’m sure from now on this place is always going to be five star.”

Following a quick inspection on July 5, the restaurant was given a “five” rating.

This is the highest

possible rating and means hygiene practices are “very good”.

Spice Merchant has been serving curry to Hove residents for three years.

When visited by The Argus, one customer remarked: “it’s the best curry in Brighton”.

A council spokeswoman said it expected people setting up businesses to visit the food hygiene website which has all the information on complying with standards.

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Infinity Foods Kitchen is set to close

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AN ETHICAL kitchen is to close, leaving its workers “disappointed”.

Infinity Foods Kitchen in Brighton’s North Laine will be serving its last gluten-free organic vegetarian dish on Sunday.

Despite being run by a workers’ co-op, staff say they did not have a vote on its closure.

And they have been left “disappointed” that the new team was not given enough time to “turn things around”.

One worker at the cafe, who asked not to be named, said: “Sadly, the business decision has been made.

“The amazing new team have given everything to turn it around – and have succeeded – but, sadly, the members of the shop would not carry it on.”

The kitchen is part of the Infinity Foods workers’ co-op.

The co-op also runs the Infinity Foods Shop and Bakery in North Road.

This will not be closing.

But the kitchen, in nearby Gardner Street, will open for the last time on Sunday.

This comes after a vote by members of the co-op.

However, workers in the kitchen say that because they are new members, they were not entitled to vote on the decision – or even attend the meeting last Thursday.

The kitchen worker added: “It’s very, very sad.

“It’s disappointing and feels like we’re in a grieving process as we have put so much in.

“In a workers’ co-op, you feel like you have a secured job but we’re keeping our heads held high and doing it the justice it deserves by showing people how amazing the food is.”

On the last day, cafe-goers will be treated to special discounts.

A spokesman for Infinity Foods said the decision was based on financial reasons.

He said: “Running a kitchen in Brighton and Hove is a very competitive market and when doing this as ethically as we can it can be difficult.

“Infinity foods shop have financially supported the running costs of the cafe, but that this is no longer sustainable.

“As a workers’ co-operative, it is important for us to pay staff well and with good sociable working hours.”

The workers’ co-op said all workers will be offered redundancy pay, as well as positions in the shop, which is round the corner.

The spokesman added: “Using organic ingredients meant we couldn’t always be competitive on price despite our efforts to make food at affordable prices and this made the costs of running the kitchen very high.

“We have offered redundancy pay to all the kitchen staff no matter how long they have worked at the kitchen and also offered positions in other departments of the co-operative.”

Infinity Foods celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2016.

It was thought of by local teenagers Peter Deadman and Ian Loeffler in the late 1960s.

And it started as a health food cafe at the University of Sussex called Biting Through.

After the pair inherited money from an aunt, they invested it into a shop in Church Street.

The operation grew and they had to move to its current location in 1974.

Visit www.infinityfoods.co.uk for more information on the business.

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Council to tackle signs

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A CRACKDOWN on unauthorised signs has been launched.

Brighton and Hove City Council has begun a campaign in Western Road and Church Road, Hove, to ensure traders do not change storefronts without permission.

Councillor Tracey Hill said: “There has been an increase in unauthorised signs and shop front alterations in recent years. Poor signage affects the way the whole street feels.”

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