A CITY centre nightclub has lost its appeal against a conviction for selling watered-down drinks.
But the licensee's appeal on the same offence was successful.
Owners of RB's - formerly Rosie's - in Northgate Street, Six Continents Retail Ltd, and RB's licensee Paul Patersonwere both convicted at Chester Magistrates' Court in January.
The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £3,345 costs. Club licensee Paul Paterson was also fined £200.
But at the conclusion of the two-day appeal Judge Elgan Edwards, honorary recorder for Chester, said Paterson had done all he was required to do by the company to prevent the watering down of alcohol.
The charges were originally brought after Cheshire Trading Standards officers inspected Rosie's on August 8, 2001, and found a 1.5 litre Smirnoff vodka bottle contained 17.9% added water.
Officers returned on September 18, 2001, and found a further five bottles - two Bacardi bottles and one Smirnoff vodka, one Gordon's gin and one Jack Daniel's whisky bottles - containing 2.25% to 8.85% added water.
Six Continents Retail Ltd, based in Birmingham, and Paterson, of Mason Street, Chester, said they had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent the watering down of spirits and had immediately sacked an employee who they believed had been responsible.
Six Continents argued that its precautions to ensure stock did not go missing were sufficient.
Manager Daryl Thompson told Chester Crown Court that the electronic monitoring of sales and the employment of risk and compliance managers was more effective than random testing.
'If we were to carry out random testing that would not tell us who had done it, only that someone had done it,' he said.
Paterson said he had launched an investigation into who was watering down drinks and discovered it was an employee who was subsequently dismissed.
He said the problem had not happened since.
When asked what he thought of diluting spirits Paterson replied: 'It's not tolerated. In my own opinion it's very stupid. Not only is it not tolerated, it's not even worth contemplating.'
The six bottles were found in two of the six bars in RB's, on Watergate Street, Chester, Bar One and Bar Five, the two smallest in the establishment. Bar One is on the top floor and Bar Five on the second.
Paterson said of Bar Five: 'It is the only bar in the building where there is no music. It's a chill-out room,' to which the judge replied: 'I was not aware that people went to Rosie's for a quiet time.'
Lee Bennett, defending Paterson, said: 'Mr Paterson is a respectable and well-respected licensee. Mr Paterson did all that the company required of him at the material time.'
Paterson had been on holiday when the trading standards off icers discovered the first vodka bottle had been watered down. He was made aware of the problem when they returned seven weeks later.
The court heard as soon as he discovered the problem he went out and bought his own hydrometer to test the spirits himself.
Judge Edwards said: 'He now realises what should have been obvious to the company - that checks need to be made and in fairness to him he is making those checks.'
He added he hoped in future that not such `a slavish reliance is placed on this computer system which is excellent for accounting purposes but does not protect those who want to drink in this establishment'.
The company was ordered to pay costs of £4,730.