Opting for a traditional look

02 November, 2007

Q Recently a customer entered the shop who was clearly plastered. A younger assistant was about to sell him some whisky when I intervened and told the man we could not serve him. After the predictable abuse and protestations of sobriety, the man drove off in his car. I know I did the right thing by refusing the sale, but could the police actually take action against me for failing to stop him driving away?

A Your story sounds broadly similar to a case in Wales recently in which staff at Bargain Booze in Connah's Quay refused to serve a 47-year-old man who, it later turned out, was four times over the alcohol limit for driving.

The man left the shop and made a 500-metre car journey back to his house. The staff in the shop were obviously horrified and called the police as the man drove off. He was later jailed for three months and banned from driving for three years.

It is an offence, as you probably realise, to knowingly sell alcohol to intoxicated customers and it is likely that police will attempt to clamp down on this in the near future. How they will achieve this in the off-trade is anyone's guess - the mind boggles at the way test purchasing might be adapted.

As for being held responsible for the drunk driving off in his car, you could find yourself in trouble if it was proved that you knowingly sold him alcohol and also realised that he was intending to drive. This might be information that affected the severity of your penalty, but as far as we can tell you would not have committed a separate offence.

Common sense suggests that it's a good idea to try to stop an intoxicated driver getting in their car. If this is not possible, the best advice is to follow the example of the Bargain Booze staff and call the police straight away.

Q Barbers have their stripy poles, pawnbrokers have their balls ... but what's the traditional signage for an off-licence? I'm getting my fascia redesigned and want to go for a retro look.

A There isn't a single identifying motif for drinks stores, sadly, but that doesn't mean old-style off-licences

necessarily had bland frontages.

Ale shops, for example, would commonly display the insignia of the brewery that owned them - the Bass triangle or the Whitbread stag are both pretty iconic. You could always talk to a friendly rep to see if a brewery wants to help you achieve a nice retro look by supplying some artwork or contributing to your expenses - all it might cost you is a commitment to some prominent merchandising for a particular brand.

Or you could do some research and get copies of the logos of now-defunct beers and get a signwriter or shopfitter to incorporate them into the new design. With modern scanning techniques, this isn't as big a job as you might imagine.

For a really smart look, consider a hanging sign.

Local councils in Littlehampton, West Sussex, have teamed up with arts bodies to fund wooden signs for

local businesses. The Local, which stands on the site of a former brewery, now has a very nice ship in a bottle swaying in the wind outside its premises.

Stores in conservation areas will be actively encouraged, if not required, to install traditional fascias. Talk to your local planning department for advice and contacts.

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