Cafe & bar that wanted to serve alcohol to Romford's Albanian community refused licence
PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:33 24 August 2017
A cafe authorities claimed had been operating as a "de facto pub" without a licence has been refused the right to sell alcohol by Havering Council.
The owners of the Tropoja Cafe & Bar in Victoria Road applied for a premises licence in July, but at Havering Town Hall in Romford on Tuesday morning were told too many details of their application were not up to scratch.
Chief amongst the concerns of the council’s planning officers was the concern over what exactly the venue was going to be used for.
Just before the licensing sub-committee adjourned to make its decision, Cllr Linda Trew, chairwoman, said: “The biggest concern we have here, from what you are saying, is ‘what is it?’
“Is it a social club? Is it a restaurant? Is it a bar?”
Representing Tropoja’s owner, Mr Hazidi, was Graham Hopkins, who argued that the cafe would be operating predominantly as a meeting point for the areas Albanian community.
Mr Hopkins argued the council had in fact, a decade ago, planned to allow a number of cafes similar to the one Mr Hazidi was suggesting, modelled on successful cafe cultures in France.
But Cllr Trew did not agree with this assertion.
She said: “You’re speaking a lot about the Albanian community and a lot about the culture, which sounds very similar to our own, but does not that make it more a social club?
“The application you have made isn’t consistent with what you’re asking for.
“The food aspect, you say it’s like the French concept - we’re not in France, we’re in England, and we have our own health and safety laws.”
Licensing officer Paul Jones also raised concerns as a cafe previously owned by Mr Hazidi, Pulp Kitchen in Oaks Park, Harold Wood, had been sold without the owner informing the council, leading to the loss of the £180 licence fee.
After several written reminders were sent to Mr Hazidi, licensing officers visited the premises to discover the cafe had been turned into a kebab shop.
The council had not been informed of any sale, and had been under the impression Pulp Kitchen was still a licensed premises being operated by Mr Hazidi.
When asked about public nuisance crime and disorder issues at the location, Pc Oisin Daly, a Metropolitan Police officer working with Havering’s licensing team, also revealed that, under previous owners, the premises had been used as a front to sell drugs.
Pc Daly, who had been part of the police team that executed the warrant on that occasion, also raised concerns about food hygiene at the venue, after a photo appeared to show raw chicken left out on a worktop.
A police sergeant from Romford town centre’s antisocial behaviour team was not allowed to speak at the meeting, as he had not submitted a written objection beforehand.
The committee also heard that a Romford resident had reportedly seen men drinking and smoking outside the premises during the weekend of August 4-7, although no authorities had witnessed this and no photographic evidence existed.
Mr Hopkins insisted the licence application fell well within the boundaries of the law, and argued the council would be breaching Mr Hazidi’s rights if it made decisions based on unsubstantiated claims.
“We have robust measures in place to ensure the licensing objectives are met, it is going to be a cafe bar where people can have a drink, but there will also be food available.
“It is not going to be a Wetherspoons or a miniature version of it, it is going to be a concept like the Taproom in Upminster – a small venue where they can sit and watch TV from back home together.
“That’s the type of venue we are looking at here.”
Mr Hopkins also explained that the initial licence application had included requests for recorded music and late night refreshment by accident – the owners had no intention of blaring out loud music or staying open past 11pm.