Spice of Balti, Bungay: Covid violates ‘public safety risk’

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An Indian restaurant where customers ate and drank during the height of the pandemic could have posed a risk to public safety, health experts have warned.

Suffolk Police were called to Spice of Balti, St Mary’s Street, Bungay, on January 9 – just four days after the country was placed in a third nationwide lockdown in response to the surge in Covid cases – to report that members of the public were drinking alcohol at the restaurant bar and take out inside.

Police also discovered that staff members were not wearing face coverings and that restaurant owner Shams Uddin, was fined £ 1,000 a few days later.

But authorities have now gone further – the Suffolk Public Health Service warning that the event “may have posed a risk to public health”.


Dr Padmanabhan Badrinath, Public Health Medicine Consultant at Public Health Suffolk
– Credit: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

At a meeting last Friday, Public Health Suffolk recommended that the restaurant’s license be reviewed to “mitigate any additional risk to the public” due to “the transmission of Covid-19 associated with locals”.

However, although experts have expressed concerns for public safety, most of Friday’s hearing went behind closed doors and details of the decision, usually released up to five days after the meeting, are not are not made public, the East Suffolk Council said.

The newspaper challenged this decision – which, according to the council, was taken because the hearing was held “in the absence of the public” and “because the decision can be appealed”.

The chiefs of the council said: “The subcommittee exercised its power to exclude the public from the hearing … because it considered that the public interest in doing so outweighed the public interest that the hearing takes place in public. ”

Mr Uddin was removed from his role as ‘Designated Premises Supervisor’ (DPS) following the meeting and a number of conditions were put in place – but at this time they are not being made public .

When we contacted the restaurant, the bosses said they didn’t want to comment on the outcome of Friday’s hearing.

“ Risk to public safety ”

Public health medicine consultant Dr Padmanabhan Badrinath wrote in a report submitted to the licensing hearing that the Spice of Balti incident on January 9 came at a time when Covid cases were high in Suffolk .

By this date, hospitality establishments had to close, including restaurants, with the exception of the provision of take-out food and non-alcoholic beverages (until 11 p.m.), self-service and delivery service. Alcoholic beverages could only be provided by take out delivery.

Dr Badrinath wrote that on the day of the incident there were 39,104 positive cases of Covid-19 in the UK and 359 daily laboratory confirmed cases in Suffolk, indicating that the virus’ was circulating in the region “.

“This event took place when the number of cases was high, which meant an increased risk of community transmission,” he warned in the report.

“We would say that the events described by the police may pose a risk to public safety.”

At the time, the owner, Mr Uddin, claimed the restaurant only offered take-out service and said he planned to challenge the fine.

“Two customers were waiting outside, but one of them came to get food. No one was eating inside and no one was sitting inside, ”he said.

Police investigation in progress

Advocating for part of Friday’s hearing to be held behind closed doors, John Corkett, on behalf of Suffolk Police, confirmed that criminal proceedings were underway in connection with the January incident.

Police bosses say in reports to the meeting that a review of the restaurant’s license has been requested for reasons of crime and disorder prevention, public safety and prevention of public nuisance.

The agents wrote that they wanted to see 12 conditions attached to the site’s license.


Balti's Spice, in St Mary's Street, Bungay

Balti’s Spice, in St Mary’s Street, Bungay
– Credit: GOOGLE MAPS

A police spokesperson said after the meeting: “Despite efforts to work with the owner for several weeks, there has been no dialogue with the police to formulate a plan to prevent future violations. the law.

“The licensing subcommittee, after hearing the case, decided to remove the owner as DPS and impose a number of conditions on the license of the premises.”

Mr. Uddin and his team have 21 days to appeal the decision.

Chronology

January 5 – England placed in third national lockout, following concerns over increase in Covid cases

January 9 – Police were called to Spice of Balti, Bungay, following reports that members of the public are eating and drinking on the premises

January 19Restaurant owner Shams Uddin has been given a fixed penalty notice of £ 1,000

April 12 – Pubs and restaurants in England are allowed to reopen with outside dining

April 16 – License hearing held to examine Spice of Balti

April 21th – Decision to remove the DPS and attach the conditions uploaded to the council’s public portal, with key details not made public



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