The owner of a Bradford restaurant was fined £15,000 after a Court heard he ignored a “long-standing” rat infestation in a cellar.
Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday that 34-year-old Javed Iqbal, owner of Omar Khan’s on Little Horton Lane, had been told by staff that four rats were “living in the cellar” eight weeks before Bradford Council workers carried out an on-the-spot inspection last December.
Harjit Ryatt, prosecuting for the Council, said Iqbal had called in a pest controller to identify how the creatures were getting in, but failed to take any further action until inspectors saw rats running across a cellar littered with fresh and old droppings.
The rodents had established “rat runs” and had “heavily gnawed” a box of pappadums and a bag of onions stored on the floor, which had evidence of rats’ urine, he added.
Iqbal, of North Park Road, Heaton – who, the court heard, had remedied the problem within a day – admitted six breaches of hygiene legislation, including failing to stop rodents entering the premises, failing to keep the restaurant clean and maintained and failing to store food to prevent contamination.
Iqbal is the nephew of new Bradford Bulls’ owner Omar Khan who, although the restaurant carries his name, does not own or run the restaurant.
Magistrates heard an inspector visiting the premises saw “one large rat running across the wall into a boiler on the adjacent wall” as she entered the cellar.
“She then saw a further two rats appear,” Mr Ryatt said.
The court heard Iqbal voluntarily agreed to close the premises and the officers called in colleagues to make a further inspection of the premises.
He told officers he had called in a pest controller eight weeks earlier to identify the rats’ “various entry points” after staff reported the problem, but took no further action.
“It’s quite telling that while the premises had been voluntarily closed, the defendant did engage the pest controller’s services and was able to remedy the problem within one day,” Mr Ryatt added.
Magistrates were told that during the inspection, officers found no evidence of any disinfectant on the premises.
Mr Ryatt said: “It puts in question the ability of the premises to make sure work surfaces were adequately disinfected before their contact with food.”
Officers also discovered raw meat stored in a fridge above cooked food and a dirty cheese grater.
Abdul Iftikhar, mitigating, said Iqbal had taken over the running of the restaurant after his father became ill and had left staff in charge while he was away looking after his family from March to October last year.
“When he did return to the restaurant he was made aware there was a hygiene problem and he did, to his credit, contact a pest controller.”
He added the pest controller had set traps, but the problem had continued.
Magistrates were shown photographs of the remedial action taken and were told the restaurant had been able to reopen within 48 hours of closing.
“This has been a glitch in the otherwise exemplary record of Omar Khan’s. Mr Iqbal accepts he is responsible for the failings on his part,” Mr Iftikhar said.
Magistrates handed him a £2,500 fine for each of the six breaches and ordered him to pay £1,835 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
After the hearing, owner Javed Iqbal said: “We are deeply disappointed by today’s events but we want to stress to our customers that they have no need to worry about the hygiene or cleanliness of any of the food prepared in this restaurant.
“Rats are a problem for many businesses in this area and we have complained numerous times to the Council about the fact that more effort is needed to control them. This part of the city centre does have a pest control problem and we do everything in our power to ensure that our kitchens are protected.
“The rats got in through a hole behind the boiler in the cellar which we don’t use and we’ve made sure that nothing like this can ever happen again.
“Our kitchens are spotless and there is absolutely no risk to the public.”