Ocean Spice, a restaurant at White Rock, Hastings with the website strapline “Master of Indian Cuisine”, has been stripped of its licences for serving alcohol, providing live entertainment, and remaining open after 11pm. A panel of Hastings Borough Council’s licensing committee chaired by Cllr Andy Patmore ordered the revocation of these licences on the application of the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement division after three interventions over a 13-month period in respect of employment offences. 

The restaurant had chalked up £95,000 worth of cumulative fines for employing Bangladeshi staff without work permits since October 2018. The restaurant owners Shahar Rahman and Siddiqur Rahman are also facing charges in Hastings Magistrates Court alleging assault and obstruction of immigration officers when they arrived there in November 2019 to investigate. 

Licences issued by a local authority may be revoked for reasons of prevention of crime, disorder or public nuisance. The Home Office had submitted to the Council that revocation “will send a strong message that the local authority are proactively combating the exploitation of workers, by ensuring that their employers take seriously their responsibilities in relation to the [immigration] legislation and to the people within their employ”.

At the hearing it was argued on behalf of the restaurant that staff had given false assurances, and on at least one occasion falsified evidence, before taking up work there. There was also an attempt to persuade the committee that at least one of the staff was working on a trial basis and was therefore not an employee; moreover there was no evidence of any exploitation of the workers.

The licensing committee were unmoved. They had listened carefully to all the submissions, said Cllr Patmore, but believed that revocation “is the only option available…The licensing objectives have been seriously undermined.” Cllr Patmore cited not only the immigration offences themselves but also the evidence of violence and lack of co-operation with the immigration authorities.

The restaurant is entitled to stay open without any licences, though its inability to serve alcohol to its customers or stay open past 11pm may obviously damage trade. 

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