Abdul Hadi Choudhury, the owner of The Eastern Eye restaurant in Bath, was fined £70,000 and given a suspended prison sentence for multiple and serious breaches of fire safety regulations.
Fire safety officers found the fire exit obstructed and unlit, fire alarms not working, faulty fire doors and no evidence of a fire risk assessment or staff training.
The sentencing judge concluded it would have been almost impossible for customers or staff to escape had a fire broken out in the kitchen of the large, upstairs restaurant.
Choudhury said Avon Fire and Rescue safety officers made their inspection on the morning of November 30, 2016, when the restaurant was closed and he was absent during a prolonged period of ill health.
He said officers made much of “a few cans of paint and a ladder” left by decorators behind the doors to the fire exit but maintained that diners – the restaurant can seat up to 146 – could still have got out if they needed to.
An upturned sofa in the fire escape had only been there for a short time while he waited for a friend to collect it, Choudhury said.
Two internal fire doors were wedged open so that staff could go about their work, one didn’t close properly because of “a loose screw”, and the main entrance doorway had been 7cm too narrow since the restaurant opened 20 years ago following inspection by both fire and local authorities, he added.
Despite protests by the restaurant owner and his solicitor, Avon Fire and Rescue has defended its decision to prosecute The Eastern Eye UK Ltd and Choudhury, its managing director, citing a “catalogue of serious fire safety breaches that put members of staff and the public at risk”.
A spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Service said: “Due to the serious nature of the breaches the authority took the decision to bring a prosecution against both the company and Mr Choudhury as the person responsible for fire safety at the restaurant on a day to day basis. The Authority decided that a caution was not a suitable disposal of the case given its seriousness.”
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