AROUND 1,000 litres of fake booze were seized from a pub by trading standards – equivalent to around half the amount recovered across the whole of the North West the previous year.
Vodka drinkers were even being sold methylated spirits that were “unfit for human consumption”.
Two years ago, watchdogs working closely with police raided the White House pub on Sutton Road following complaints from neighbours about beer kegs being stored beside the premises.
Cedric Fitzpatrick, who ran the pub for several years, was jailed last week for nine months and the landlady Barbara Gallimore was given six months suspended for a year.
Fitzpatrick, 64, and Gallimore, 71, both of Stirling Crescent in Sutton, pleaded guilty to charges involving failing to provide traceability of food, offering food for sale not of the substance demanded, placing unsafe food on the market and engaging in a prohibited commercial practice.
Darrell Wilson, St Helens trading standards chief, said: “There were complaints of a lot of beer kegs being stored on land next to the pub. Apparently you could see them on Google Earth.
“There were other general complaints, so initially we went in there blind. There was 1,000 litres of counterfeit spirit that wasn’t fit for human consumption.
“Some of the vodka was industrial spirit. There was around 500 litres of whisky which wasn’t proper whisky as it hadn’t been fermented in oak casks. It was just a brown spirit drink.”
“There was no evidence they had been making it. They claimed to have been storing it. We found both the vodka and whisky were in the optics in the pub so they were selling it to customers.
“There were no reports of anyone being taken ill... it is much more toxic than normal alcohol.”
Trading standards officers also found 810 packets of counterfeit cigarettes.
Mr Wilson said: “At a time when many pubs are struggling this hasn’t done the industry and good."
The White House has since closed.
At Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Recorder Anthony Long told Fitz-patrick: “You cheated your customers by selling them products that were not what they pretended. Worse still than cheating your customers, you were selling as vodka a substance unfit for human consumption."
“You pleaded on the basis that you did not do so deliberately but when you buy black market goods of untraceable provenance you take that risk.”
The court also heard that Fitzpatrick was prosecuted for operating a “gambling den” from the pub earlier this year.