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Residents and councillors have accused the owners of an as-yet unopened restaurant in Ilford of plotting to turn it into a shisha bar.
Owners Niko and Gence Dauti of the Brothers Lounge Restaurant on Longwood Gardens have applied to the council for permission to sell late night food and alcohol.
A poster currently displayed on the front of the building advertises a shisha lounge, which their agent told the licensing committee at a meeting today was no longer the plan for the business.
Objectors fear the owners may still plan to convert the restaurant into a shisha lounge at a later date and that customers leaving the business late at night will disturb residents.
If approved, the application would allow the restaurant to provide food until midnight and alcohol until 11pm on weeknights, 11.30pm on Friday and Saturday and 10.30pm on Sunday.
Committee member Cllr Sadiq Kothia (Lab, Fullwell) said: “Clearly the intention behind the restaurant is to have the alcohol and the shisha.
“You just do not want to come forward and admit that because it may damage the application.”
This accusation was denied by the applicant’s brother as the applicant was unable to attend, insisting they intended to open the building only as a restaurant.
Their agent explained they had previously intended to include a shisha lounge and changed their mind after the poster was paid for, adding he would advise them to remove it.
Both Labour councillors for the Barkingside area, where the restaurant is located, spoke to the committee about their concerns.
Cllr Martin Sachs told the committee: “Local residents, including myself, are concerned that the emergence of customers who have consumed quantities of alcohol at late hours will cause noisy disturbance, such as singing, fighting, slamming car doors and other raucous behaviour.”
Asked by committee member Cllr Jamal Uddin (Lab, Clayhall) if he had evidence there would be disturbance, he said he had received similar complaints from residents about other restaurants in the area that serve alcohol and close around midnight.
Fellow ward councillor Judith Garfield added: “It’s a very densely populated area and a very small row of shops.
“The restaurant is welcome there, but there’s a lot of concern about noise pollution and anti-social behaviour.”
She added that the 34 objections received were likely to be “just the tip of the iceberg” and that there will be “a lot more” once the restaurant opens.
Residents complained allowing the restaurant to serve alcohol would increase crime and anti-social behaviour, with one resident insisting it “would definitely attract the wrong type of people to a family friendly neighbourhood”.
A number of people referenced the now-closed Doctor Johnson pub, which used to be on the other side of the road, stating they feared problems caused by the pub might return.
The owner’s agent told the committee: “It’s not in our intention to disturb any of the local residents, our intention is to make the area better, not to make it worse.”
He added that the owners would not serve alcohol “to people that do appear drunk” and would be prepared to ban anyone behaving in a disorderly way.
He said the applicant had spent more than £100,000 on renovating the building, demonstrating how seriously he took the business, and offered to provide photos of the derelict state it was in before.
He said this renovation included acoustic insulation and buffering to reduce disturbance to local residents.
However, the applicant was unaware that some of the spaces above the row of shops are used as flats, according to Cllr Sachs.
The owners have also submitted an application for a smoking area to the council, which is still pending.
The committee will provide a decision on the application within five working days.