The owners of a city centre shisha lounge and restaurant have been fined £8,000 for five breaches of the smoking ban.

Shabbir and Syima Merali, owners of Insaha Ltd which runs the Markaz, in Centenary Square, yesterday pleaded guilty at Bradford Magistrates’ Court to five counts of allowing customers to smoke shisha pipes in the restaurant between June and October last year despite previous prosecutions for the same offence.

After the case, Bradford Council revealed that it could seek a court injunction to stop Markaz operating if the restaurant continued to flout the law.

Richard Winter, prosecuting on behalf of the Council told the court the five new charges related to incidents on June 26, August 1, October 17, October 24 and October 29 of last year.

Insaha was fined £1,600 for each of the five breaches of the anti-smoking legislation, being fined a total of £8,000. It was further ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,730 and a victim surcharge of £15 making a total of £9,745 payable at £750 per month.

Mr Winter said: “The majority of businesses (in the Bradford Council area), unlike Insaha Ltd, are complying with the smoking regulations.”

Mr Winter said that on June 26 an environmental health officer visited the restaurantand found eight people smoking shisha. The Council wrote to the defendants but did not receive a reply.

On August 1, two officers visited and again found customers smoking. Again a letter was sent but no response was forthcoming.

Shortly afterwards the company approached the planning department for permission to install a smoking ‘pavilion’ outside the restaurant. Mrs Merali also undertook to prevent smoking taking place in the restaurant.

However, when officers visited again on October 17 they discovered 20 customers smoking pipes. Mrs Merali said she had no choice but to allow customers to smoke there until the planning issues for the pavilion were resolved. There were two further breaches of the law over the next two weeks.

The firm argued it had attempted to comply with the regulations since its first convictions but that due to the protracted nature of the planning applications process it had lost huge amounts of revenue and were in a “Catch 22 situation.”

It also queried why it appeared to have been singled out by Council for prosecution while other places, which allegedly allowed shisha smoking nearby, did not.

Mr Winters said that one of the companies, Fellah’s in Great Horton, had been prosecuted for a similar offence, as had a pub in Keighley. All reported cases, including those involving businesses referred to by the defendants would be investigated.

After the case, Mrs Merali said she was “extremely disappointed” with the outcome. She said the restaurant had invested heavily in an outdoor pavilion to allow people to smoke shisha legally outside.

David Clapham, Bradford Council’s principal environmental health manager, said: “We are taking action against anywhere where we get complaints or know about."

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