In accordance with Section 51 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Council has received an application from Kent Police, as a responsible authority, for a review of the existing premises licence in respect of Bas Bar, 14 Cliffe Road, Strood, Kent ME2 3DS. All responsible authorities have been consulted in line with the Licensing Act 2003.
No representations in support of or objecting to the review have been received from members of the public or other responsible authorities.
The Chairman asked those present to introduce themselves and explained the process that the hearing would follow as outlined in the agenda.
The Licensing Officer stated that, in accordance with Section 51 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Council had received an application from Kent Police, as a responsible authority, for a review of the existing Premises Licence for Bas Bar, 14 Cliffe Road, Strood, Rochester, ME2 3DS. She advised that the grounds for the review related to two of the four licensing objectives:
· The prevention of crime and disorder.
· Public safety.
The application had been correctly advertised for the required timescale by placing notices at the premises, Council contact points and on the Council’s website in accordance with regulations made under the Licensing Act 2003. Also in accordance with the legislation, notice of the application (and the application itself) had been served on the relevant parties for the licensed premises along with the other responsible authorities.
The following documents were included in the agenda pack for the Panel’s consideration:
· Appendix A – The application for review.
· Appendix B – The current premises licence, attached to Supplementary Agenda no. 1.
· Appendix C – A plan showing the location of the premises.
The Licensing Officer drew the Panel’s attention to the grounds for the review in relation to the Licensing Objectives of the Licensing Act 2003 and also to paragraph 3 of the agenda report - advice and analysis on determination of review application, which set out the options for the Panel.
The Chairman invited the representatives from Kent Police to present the application for a licence review. PC Hunt outlined a visit to the premises by Home Office Immigration Officers executing a warrant on Thursday 2 May 2019 during which he had been in attendance. Three persons had been found to be working at the premises illegally and they had been interviewed at the scene by Immigration Officers. All three stated that they had only been working at the premises for a short time and only one confirmed that he had shown his employer documentation prior to commencing work, this being a photocopy of his passport and a photocopy of a settlement visa for which he had paid £20. In interview, Mr Harjot Singh had stated that the three persons had told him that their immigration status was ‘indefinite leave to remain’. He had also stated that two of them had yet to receive any wages as they had failed to provide documentation of their right to work.
PC Hunt stated that Kent Police also had concerns regarding the failure to comply with the conditions of the premises licence. Specifically, CCTV was only storing data for eight days; there were no staff training records on site; and there was no incident recording book. In the opinion of Kent Police these amounted to breaches of licence conditions 9, 13 and 18.
With reference to sections 11.24, 11.27 and 11.28 of the Guidance to the Licensing Act 2003 and detailing the implications of employing illegal workers, PC Hunt said that Kent Police was seeking revocation of the premises licence as allowing the premises to continue to operate with the benefits of a licence would merely serve to perpetuate the activity.
The Chairman invited Mr Singh to question PC Hunt. He stated that his former business partner, Mr Sukhbir Singh, had only left the business on the previous Sunday and that he had taken sole charge from Monday. PC Hunt responded that Mr Sukhbir Singh had told him he had left the business one or two weeks ago. In response to questions from members of the Panel, PC Hunt advised that it was his assumption that the settlement visa produced by one of the persons found to be working illegally at the premises on 2 May 2019 was not genuine.
The Chairman invited Mr Harjot Singh to respond to the review application submitted by Kent Police. He explained that the premises had been subject to an immigration raid in January or February 2018 and, following a documentation check, the Immigration Officers had been satisfied that the premises were operating legally. It was difficult to find suitable chefs for the restaurant and one had relocated from Leicester and had been given accommodation. The wages paid, which were cash in hand, had been more than the persons had stated when interviewed by the Immigration Officers.
At the review hearing, Mr Singh passed various documents to the Panel to demonstrate that he was now collecting employment documents from his staff. These were also passed to the representatives from Kent Police. He explained that he had received a fine of £14,000 for the immigration offences and that he had needed to borrow money from family and friends to pay the fine. He also explained that an incident book was now kept at the premises; there had not been one previously as there had never been an incident.
The Chairman invited the representatives from Kent Police to question Mr Singh. PC Hunt said that the 2018 raid referred to by Mr Singh had not been in connection with the execution of a warrant but was part of a multi-agency visit to a number of premises to offer guidance and advice. Mr Singh responded that the visit had been on a Friday at 6pm when he was busy in the kitchen. The Immigration Officers had checked paperwork at the premises and left.
Noting that Mr Singh had submitted documentation at the hearing to demonstrate his view that the business was now taking reasonable steps to operate with due diligence, PC Hunt questioned whether staff would still have been employed if they had not produced the required documentation. Mr Singh responded that he had made a big mistake at a time when he had been busy and sought to reassure PC Hunt that he would not revert to his former way of working in the future during busy periods.
Panel members questioned whether Mr Singh would still be employing illegal workers if his business had not been the subject of a premises licence review. Mr Singh responded that he would carry out all necessary checks in the future adding that due to his mistake he was now in debt. Mr Singh responded to questions about his current employment practices and assured the Panel that he would have paid the three persons identified on 2 May 2019 even if they had not produced the required documentation. He was asked to identify the four Licensing Objectives but was unable to do so.
Summing up, PC Hunt reiterated the concerns of Kent Police regarding illegal working at the premises following the visit by Immigration Officers on 2 May 2019 and also the breaches of three conditions of the premises licence. He expressed concern that the situation could have continued had Kent Police not applied for a review of the licence and that Mr Singh could revert to his former ways during busy periods in the future. PC Hunt confirmed that Kent Police was still seeking revocation of the premises licence.
Mr Singh did not wish to add anything further and the Chairman asked all parties to leave the room during the Panel’s deliberations. They returned for the Chairman’s announcement of the Panel’s decision.
1. In reviewing the current premises licence for Bas Bar, 14 Cliffe Road, Strood, Rochester, ME2 3DS, the Panel considered all the written evidence before it and had listened carefully to all the oral evidence presented by Kent Police and the owner of the business.
2. The Panel decided unanimously to suspend the premises licence for Bas Bar for a period of three months to enable the owner to make the necessary changes to the business to comply with the conditions of the licence.