Late night parties may see licence ban for St Albans restaurant
LOUD parties and trading into the early hours of the morning could lose a St Albans restaurant and bar its licence for a fortnight.
Buon Amici in Heritage Close, its proprietor Kamillo Bendahman and manager Paul Crossey, were the subject of a licence review last Thursday.
The Italian restaurant, which has its own wine and cocktail bar, The Wax House, on the lower floor, was found to be trading beyond its licensable hours on both Saturday, March 6, and Sunday, March 7.
Licensing compliance officer Graham Hopkins said that at around 1.20am on the first instance he estimated that there were up to 80 people in the building at the time.
He saw two young women with full glasses of what appeared to be a spirit and a mixer and most of the men had full pints.
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The bar’s bouncers were not displaying Secure Industry Authority (SIA) licences, and the music was so loud that he could not hear Mr Bendahman speak.
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Mr Hopkins, who also considered that many of the Wax House customers were under the influence of drugs, told Mr Bendahman to clear the bar immediately.
But despite the events of that morning Mr Bendahman, who insisted that the party had all bought their drinks upstairs in the restaurant well before the 12.30am limit, threw a party for the staff at his two St Albans restaurants – Buon Amici and Kamillo’s on Marlborough Road – on Sunday night.
Once again, the bar stayed open until the early hours of the morning and the last person did not leave until nearly 3.30am. PC John Cooper, who applied for the review, said that he visited Mr Bendahman on Wednesday and demanded to see the CCTV footage of that night.
He saw bar staff selling and serving alcoholic drinks to customers and advised Mr Bendahman that he was surprised at what he had seen considering that the proprietor had been visited the previous evening and had been found trading after hours.
Mr Bendahman said that he had arranged an open bar for his staff but soon after decided to charge for the drinks.
He added: “Everyone was having a great time and the music wasn’t loud enough for them so I decided to turn it up. I admit it was very loud. I regret taking money from my staff but it was only a total of about �100.”
Heritage Close resident Jonathan Rodwell, whose home is just metres away from Buon Amici, said that the noise levels were insufferable every weekend: “I want my children to be able to sleep at night – it is my view that Buon Amici and the bar below is operating as a night club, when it could in fact be run as an up-market bar with only incidental background music.”
Mr Rodwell added: “The whole family has been affected by the noise levels of Buon Amici, especially one of my children whose bedroom is five metres away from the bar’s balcony at exactly the same level.
“I have been logging noise disturbances for years now – it became an obsession at one point and I became an insomniac because of these troubles.”
PC Cooper, who said that the level of complaints received regarding Buon Amici was the highest he’d ever seen during his six years of service, made a number of recommendations to the panel including the swift removal of the restaurant’s licence for a period of two weeks to give Mr Bendahman time to make necessary changes.
Mr Bendahman said that since PC Cooper’s visit, he had introduced all the measures recommended by the police including thicker glass on the fire doors and sound-proof blinds on all the windows. “Everything is done and more,” he said. “It has been a struggle to pull the business through a terrible economic time and taking away my licence will only make things worse. I have a family to support, just like everybody else.”
But other than a fire alarm certificate, Mr Bendahman failed to present the panel with any sound evidence of the alleged �15,000-worth of work had been done.
The panel, chaired by Cllr Tony Swendell, ruled that the premises licence should be suspended for two weeks and that Mr Bendahman should be removed as the Designated Premises Supervisor until he had completed a National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders.
It was also decided that the performance of live music, which includes the hiring of a DJ, must be removed from the licence.
Speaking after the decision, Cllr Swendell said: “We don’t run reviews lightly and in this case there was evidence from all the responsible authorities that led us to conclude that Mr Bendahman was not complying with his licensing objectives. It is up to us to uphold such standards in St Albans.”
Mr Bendahman, who has lived in St Albans for 28 years, is expected to appeal against the decision, which could affect when the licence ban is put into practice.