By Clara Gaspar
At least four illegal workers were found at branches of Durham City’s Lebaneat restaurants in August, one of whom was found hiding in a cupboard, The Northern Echo has reported.
The restaurant has since been refused a license to sell alcohol, pending an investigation by the Home Office.
Durham Council’s licensing committee has also denied an application by Ahmed Sayed, the manager of the restaurant chain, to transfer the ownership of the premises to Oksana Sayed.
At a meeting discussing the proposed licensing amendments at Durham County Council, it was revealed that the premises, opened in 2016, had been selling alcohol illegally.
Although Sayed told the council that Lebaneat had been operating a “bring your own booze” policy, police claim to have witnessed alcohol being sold on three occasions in August.
Speaking at Durham County Council’s Statutory Licensing Sub-Committee, Police Community Support Officer Rebecca Carey revealed the findings of the raid on the 2nd August: “There were two illegal workers in the Wrap House [in Claypath], one in the kitchen and one was hidden in a cupboard.
“A further two [illegal workers] were found at the North Bailey Lebaneat.”
She added: “At the Wrap House, one man was making bread, the other tried to hide when we came in the building. At Lebaneat [in North Bailey], both worked in the kitchen and were cooking at the time we entered the kitchen.”.
Mr Sayed responded by claiming the two men were not working. He said: “One was on an unpaid trial shift and the second one was in training and I have his documents.”
Mr Sayed told members of the committee: “We are going to have more checks for all employees. We are trying to train more people to have more control.
“We’re aiming to grow the company. We don’t want any more problems.”
However, the committee concluded by refusing Mr Sayed’s proposed amendments to his licensing application. Committee chairman Colin Carr told him: “The simple situation is the incidents on August 2 were illegal, the proposed DPS [Mrs Oksana Sayed] was on holiday and someone signed on your behalf – we’re concerned about that.
“You don’t understand licensing law at all, from what we can see, and we’re very concerned you will have premises running for the public, which you may be running illegally and you’ve been running these premises for two years. We have no alternative but to refuse both applications.”
Mr Sayed could be faced with a fine following the immigration issues.
Photograph: The Velvet Foxes via Flickr