The owner of an East London restaurant, popular with celebrity TV stars and Premier League footballers, has been stripped of its licence by Redbridge Council for not complying with licensing conditions.
The local authority said Melin Restaurant had also continually ignored COVID-19 guidelines and put its patrons' and staff members' safety at risk.
The restaurant, which is in Woodford Bridge, East London, was under the management and control of Ali Melin. The licence was revoked by Redbridge’s Licensing Committee.
The council said the committee had been presented with a considerable body of written material and video images from police body cameras and social media. The venue consists of a restaurant, live music with a dance floor and is laid out over three floors.
One of the most recent offences took place on 3 November, when police attended the premises, following a complaint from residents that a large event was taking place. When they arrived, they found the doors locked and the windows blacked out, the council said.
“Officers could see through a gap that people inside were not wearing face coverings while standing at the bar, and there were two DJs. The police were denied entry into the building, and the access and fire doors remained locked for 10 minutes,” Redbridge added, explaining that this amounted to an obstruction of officers exercising their duties under the Licensing Act 2003 and Coronavirus Regulations.
Mr Melin reportedly told officers, "It's the last night tonight anyway, so that's it; we are shut." Later, he posted a clip on Instagram showing 70-100 people inside with approximately 50 people dancing and a DJ playing loud music. According to Redbridge, “Officers identified the voice of Mr. Melin on the clip shouting, "F**k the lockdown!"
During the periods considered by the sub-committee, COVID-19 restrictions limited all hospitality businesses to table service restaurants, with patrons and staff required to wear face coverings unless seated. Operating as a bar, dancing, and loud DJ music were (and currently remain) prohibited to protect the public.
The Licensing Committee's main findings included that:
- The premises were operating as a dance venue on 5 July, 8 August, 28 August, 30 August, and 3 November 2020 in breach of the coronavirus Regulations.
- They accepted and acknowledged that the police and officers from Redbridge council worked closely with Mr Melin throughout the pandemic to achieve compliance with Coronavirus Regulations and guidance, first through informal means and then by taking the formal action of issuing a Prohibition Notice, Notices of Intent, and two Individual Premises Directions.
- Even without the continued interventions of the police and Redbridge officers, the restrictions in relation to dance venues were perfectly clear, and the committee had heard nothing to suggest that he was unaware of them.
- Mr Melin had operated these premises with complete disregard for the safety of his staff, customers, and the public at large. He had repeatedly failed to implement any social distancing measures or insist on mask-wearing, and on 28 August 2020, the maximum number of people permitted under the risk assessment was far exceeded.
- The committee found that on three occasions there were serious breaches of the premises licence conditions in respect of CCTV.
The Leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal, said: "This should send out a strong message to those who think they can flout licensing conditions and COVID guidelines. We have many licensed premises in the borough, the large majority of which have worked hard to follow the pandemic guidelines and keep local people safe.
"And then we have Mr Melin, who has consistently shown a flagrant and arrogant disregard for his patron's safety and the wider community's health. Redbridge has one of the country's highest infection rates, so it is truly shocking that a local business was willing to jeopardise people's health and safety purely for financial gain.
"When you consider the sheer number of incidents that took place in a relatively short period, it's no wonder the committee reached the decision they did. Mr Melin only has himself to blame for being in this position."