‘De facto pub’ operating with no licence or planning permission in Romford applies for right to sell alcohol

The Tropoja Cafe in Romford

The Tropoja Cafe in Romford - Credit: Archant

A Romford cafe that officers say has been operating as “a de facto pub” illegally is applying to Havering Council to be able to sell alcohol.

The Tropoja Cafe & Bar in Victoria Road has applied for a licence to sell beers and spirits between the hours of 10am and 11pm Monday-Saturday, and 10am-9pm on Sundays.

But when the council received the application, a number of odd aspects began to ring alarm bells.

Paul Jones, a Havering Council licensing officer, received a complaint that the premises was already acting as a bar on July 4, just one day after the official licence application had been received by the council.

Mr Jones also noted that the application for a licence had been unusual, as it was submitted by email and not via the usual method on the gov.uk website, and that no reference had originally been made to the £190 licence fee.

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On the day he visited, a day after the licence application was received, he noted: “The premises appeared for all intents and purposes to be able to operate as a fully functioning bar.”

Despite having no licence or planning permission, the cafe had chairs and tables for members of the public, along with a fully stocked bar and a pool table.

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Mr Jones also pointed out that, although Tropoja was listed as a cafe and bar, there was no kitchen installed in the building.

When quizzed about the availability of alcohol at the premises before it had a licence, the owner, Adil Haziri, claimed the fully stocked fridge, which had offered a wide range of beers and other soft drinks, was only there “for personal use”.

Moeen Anwar, an intermediary between the council and Mr Haziri, who would also be the designated premises supervisor should the cafe get a licence, told officers Mr Haziri had 15 years of experience running pubs in Redbridge and Barking.

He added: “No alcohol has been sold to any members of the public. The place is solely in the use of car wash staff [who operate a business behind the building] and Mr Haziri’s family members.

“Sometimes they have a drink there, and have a game of pool behind closed doors.”

He also claimed Mr Haziri had held a party for his son’s birthday at the premises, and that the alcohol spotted by officers on July 4 was left over from that event.

Mr Anwar’s correspondence with the council ends: “I have advised Mr Haziri to remove all the alcohol from the premises and stop using the premises for any kind of alcoholic activities even for personal consumption.”

But Mr Jones was sceptical of the fact that the council could only contact Mr Haziri, the actual property owner, by email, and instead had to go through Mr Anwar on all matters.

Further alarm bells were rung when officers began investigating Mr Anwar’s claim that Mr Haziri had 15 years’ experience in the business.

Mr Jones added: “We might reasonably query this assertion as, by Mr Anwar’s admission, Mr Haziri has yet to obtain a personal licence in the 12 years the 2003 Licensing Act has been in force.”

Further doubts were cast on the owner’s claimed experience when an examination of the documents provided with his application showed that, despite claiming to have run bars in London for 15 years, he had not been legally entitled to live or work in the UK until May 2016.

The council’s report concluded: “It is not entirely clear who is running the business which is of great concern given its intended use as a de facto pub.”

The Metropolitan Police also filed an official objection.

They claimed that if Tropoja Cafe began acting as a bar they would have concerns that the owners did not understand their responsibilities to prevent crime and disorder and public nuisance.

Havering Council’s licensing sub-committee is due to discuss the application at a meeting on August 22.

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