the man had been hired "just to cover that night"
An Indian restaurant has had its alcohol licence suspended for two months after it was found that an illegal immigrant had been working at the premises.
The person was found at the Bangla Spice Brasserie in Clayton-le-Woods, Lancashire, during a targeted visit in June 2021.
The discovery was made while licence holder Fayzul Islam was stuck in Bangladesh due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
It was meant to be a four-week trip, however, he was in Bangladesh between March and late June.
Mr Islam received a “stern warning” from Chorley Council’s licensing committee after concerns were also raised about who was responsible for licensed activity at the restaurant in his absence.
While the restaurant cannot serve alcohol during the suspension, customers are allowed to bring their own if the venue chooses to allow it.
The restaurant will remain open throughout that time and the licence suspension is not expected to come into force for several weeks.
Immigration Enforcement also issued the restaurant with an undisclosed fine for employing the illegal worker.
The council’s enforcement team leader, Nathan Howson, explained that a claim was made on the night of June 11 that the staff member, who was working his first shift, was “not credible by any stretch of the imagination”.
Intelligence about the illegal worker had been received by immigration officials in May 2021.
Enforcement officers attended the premises “on a day that was convenient to us”.
Documents revealed that the restaurant’s chef, Ashik Miah, who had founded the restaurant in 2013 and ran it until 2019, had employed the worker as a “one-off” without checking the necessary documents.
Restaurant manager Jamal Ali said that the man had been hired “just to cover that night” amidst an ongoing struggle to hire staff during the pandemic.
He said: “One of the [regular] staff was quite ill that day.
“It was very hard to find staff – people didn’t want to go back to work because of the pandemic, they were scared.
“Nobody in the restaurant knew that [the individual] was an illegal worker – [including] Mr Miah.”
Mr Howson requested to have the premises licence revoked in its entirety under the Licensing Act guidance that states the employment of people whose immigration status means they are not permitted to work should be taken “particularly seriously”.
Mr Islam said that even if he had been at the restaurant at the time of the visit, hiring staff and checking their immigration status was “not my department”.
He also said that he had been advised by the director of the operating company, Rezwan Hussain of Noy Bhai Restaurant Limited, before he left for Bangladesh that a premises supervisor with a personal licence had been appointed to “fill in” for him.
Abdul Malique was present on the night of the enforcement visit, but said it was his first shift after more than a year on furlough and he was “just here to help”.
Mr Howson concluded that Mr Malique did not have “any supervisory or management capacity at the premises”.
Immigration officer Paul Lewin said that during the visit, it had been “difficult for us to establish who was responsible for the employment of staff, who was conducting pre-employment checks and, ultimately, who to serve the civil penalty on”.
Mr Islam said it would be “harsh” for the licence to be revoked.
But he said he would leave it in the “good hands” of the committee.
The restaurant’s alcohol licence was suspended for two months and a warning was issued to Mr Islam.
Committee chair Councillor Margaret France said there was a risk of a recurrence of the issues without “a change in the attitude of the premises licence holder”.
A condition was imposed on the licence when it is reinstated.
It means the business will have to ensure that an “appropriate system of checks” is in place to ensure that only those with the right to work in the UK are employed.
Records must be kept for six months after a person stops working at the restaurant.
Councillor France added: “Members also recommend that the premises licence holder takes heed of the recommendations of licensing officers regarding the proper management of the premises.”
The illegal worker was arrested and detained.
He was set to be deported to Bangladesh but after an appeal, he is on immigration bail in the UK.