A top-rated Milton Keynes restaurant’s alcohol licence has been revoked by a council committee over the alleged employment of illegal workers.
MK Council’s licensing sub-committee met yesterday (Monday) after Home Office Immigration Enforcement made an official application to review and revoke the licence of Antep Kitchen, in Stratford Road, Wolverton.
The sub-committee of three councillors, supported by two licensing officers and one legal officer, met to hear both sides of the case. The Turkish restaurant was represented by licensing consultant Frank Fender, a former police officer.
The Home Office, which has been supported by Thames Valley Police, had asked the sub-committee to consider adjourning because, the meeting heard, their main officer was off sick. But all sides decided that they had enough information to go ahead anyway.
Mr Fender, speaking for licence holder Sever Limited, argued that the Home Office had failed to provide background evidence to support its case. And he said the council’s licensing officers had not been neutral in their report by implying that the restaurant was guilty.
“It could be interpreted as leading the committee to make a certain decision,” he said.
“The purpose of a review hearing is to make sure that the licensing objectives are being promoted,” Mr Fender said. “It is not to determine guilt. It is to determine what can you do to make sure that the licensing objectives are met.”
Mr Fender said that the restaurant employs 15 or 16 staff and has built up a good customer base. It is rated one of the top restaurants in Milton Keynes, and has had excellent reviews.
He said that the venue has operated without issues, until incidents in May 2018 and January this year, he said. One person found to be working illegally at the premises in May was also involved in January, the hearing heard.
Mr Fender said: “They are deeply sorry. I have had several meetings with them to prepare for this committee. They do not want to be in this position again, and they accept there have been shortfalls in the way they operate the licence.”
He said that it would be appropriate for the council to impose conditions on the licence. He said this would include reinforcing the licence holder’s legal duty to only employ people with a right to work in the UK with a condition on the licence.
They would also keep all employment documents for two years to be produced on request, and be subjected to unannounced visits each month until next year.
“The licence holder has not sat back, he has taken action, and knows there is no room for complacency,” said Mr Fender. “The conditions will focus minds.”
Council licensing officer Adam Ward said the issue at the heart of the matter was whether the committee has “faith in the licence holders”.
“If you are satisfied that there has been a change, you may consider imposing conditions,” he added.
The sub-committee of three councillors, Mick Legg, Anne Cryer-Whitehead, and Rex Exon, retired for half an hour before council legal officer Kat Hulatt announced the decision to revoke.
She said the committee had heard that the licence holder had fallen far short to an extent that the council’s licensing objectives had been undermined.
The licence holder, Sever Limited, which has Muammer Sever as its designated premises supervision, will be sent a formal letter detailing the decision.
Antep Kitchen will be able to serve alcohol under the terms of its licence until an appeal is made. And if an appeal is made, it will still be able to serve alcohol until the case is determined.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked Mr Sever if he wished to comment after the hearing but he declined. Mr Fender said he would be discussing the issue with his clients after they had received the official decision letter.