Restaurant stripped of licence for 'blatantly' serving in lockdown
- Credit: Archant
A restaurant has been stripped of its licence after councillors heard it breached coronavirus lockdown restrictions by serving food and drink to more than a dozen customers.
A police constable and a Norwich city council officer found 16 customers sitting in the Three Diamonds, eating and drinking at about 12.50pm on Tuesday, November 10 - in the midst of the second national lockdown.
Richard Divey, the council's public protection officer said he and Norfolk Constabulary'es PC Richard Spinks went to the restaurant on Tuesday, November 10.
He said they went because of noise complaints from nearby residential properties in the two days previously.
He said the front of the restaurant appeared closed, with the blinds drawn, but at the back there were three people outside smoking.
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He said, when they went in, there were 16 people and "the service of food and alcohol was clearly taking place".
That was six days after all restaurants were ordered to close their doors under the second lockdown, as part of the nationwide efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19.
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Mr Divey said: "It puts the population of this country at risk of serious harm by failing to control the virus."
Mr Divey asked Norwich City Council's licensing committee to revoke the licence for the restaurant, which triggered a review held over Zoom on Wednesday.
June Clarke, a licensing consultant, representing restaurant owner Olgert Xhaferrllari, said since he had taken on the premises in October 19, it had never properly opened, as the coronavirus pandemic had scuppered his plans.
She said the event had been a "private gathering" because an uncle had died and Mr Xhaferrllari had been asked to host an event for family and friends to commemorate him.
She said Mr Xhaferrllari had explained he would not be able to sell alcohol, but a couple of people had brought their own.
She said they had entered via the back for that private gathering, as Mr Xhaferrllari had yet to open the front of the restaurant. She said he had no staff and no chef.
But Mr Divey said: "If this was a private function, then members of the public who were dining there at the time, on separate tables, would not have instantly left the premises on our arrival."
Mrs Clarke said Mr Xhaferrllari had paid a £1,000 fine to the city council over the breach of lockdown restrictions.
She said: "Mr Xhaferrllari is very sorry for what happened. He has paid his penalty.
"If he had known this would cause so much trouble, he would not have done this. This has cost him an absolute fortune. He has had to sell his car to pay the rent."
During the meeting, members of the committee were shown bodycam footage from the event, but the press and public were excluded as it could identify people.
Michelle Bartram, licensing officer for Norfolk police, said in addition to being open when it should not be, there were no Covid-19 measures in place.
She said nobody in the restaurant, staff or customers, was wearing face coverings.
She said: "It was public knowledge that pubs and restaurants were not able to be opened.
"It's really disappointing for us to have to review a premises licence due to a blatant breach of coronavirus restrictions.
"Especially because so many operators in the county have done the responsible thing to close, despite the financial impact."
She said changes had been made since the incident and there had been no further breaches.
She asked why, if it was a private function after an uncle's death, Mr Xhaferrllari had not told police and the city council officers that at the time.
Mrs Clarke said: "He was terrified and didn't know what to do or say."
Members of the committee agreed to revoke the licence.
Ian Stutely, committee chairman, said: "The committee feels public safety has been put at risk, therefore our decision is to revoke the licence."
Mr Xhaferrllari has a right to appeal the committee's decision via the magistrates court and his representative Mrs Clarke said he would be considering doing that.