Confiscated wine on its way to retirement homes

Old folks’ homes are to benefit from the stock of a shebeen operator who opened a disused takeaway late at night to sell wine to late-night revellers.

Chi Chung Lee (47), 80 Cnoc an Óir, Rahoon, pleaded guilty before Galway District Court to selling bottles of wine on October 14 last year without a licence at 5 Upper Dominick Street, Galway, contrary to the Intoxicating Liquor Act.

Sergeant Brendan Moore told the court that Gardai raided a former takeaway at the above address and found the accused trading at 2.15am on the night in question. There was no intoxicating liquor licence attached to the premises and €465 cash along with 47 bottles of wine were confiscated.

Defence solicitor, Martin Kearns, said Lee’s father had operated a takeaway at the premises some years ago but he had since retired to Hong Kong and the business had closed.

There was unsold stock still left there and his client was selling it whenever he could, he said.

Judge Fahy said she suspected Lee was selling more than old wine stocks and was probably doing very well for himself.

“I suspect he only opened up after 2am when all the licensed premises were closed and ‘word of mouth’ got around,” she said.

Noticing Lee giggling to himself while standing behind his solicitor, Judge Fahy said: “He (Lee) is laughing himself, trying to keep back a smile.”

Judge Fahy pondered what could be done with the cash and wine seized on the night. She also worried about the quality of the wine if it were to be given away to worthy causes.

Sergeant Moore reassured her that the wine, while not of a great vintage, was properly sealed and safe to consume, adding that Lee had bought it from a wholesaler in town.

Judge Fahy suggested the wine be given to an old folks’ home.

Sergeant Moore reminded her she had previously done that in another case.

“How did it work out?”, she asked.

“Very well,” he replied, laughing.

Hearing the maximum fine that could be imposed under the Act was just €60, Judge Fahy said there was no disincentive for such an offence.

The judge said she would apply the Probation of Offender’s Act if Lee consented to the cash being donated to the court poor box system.

“Sometimes young people are unable to pay for a course and if they’re found to be genuine then we assist them,” Judge Fahy explained.

Lee consented to the money going to the worthy cause and the judge applied Section 1.1 of the Probation Act, which does not record a conviction.

She also directed the 47 bottles of wine be donated to local old folks’ groups.