Ilford shisha bar closes after losing alcohol licence amid breaches of coronavirus regulations

An Ilford shisha bar appears to have closed permanently after losing its alcohol licence over an illegal party where attendees told police they were celebrating the death of police officer Matt Ratana, who had been fatally shot in Croydon the day before..

Police were called to Basement Shisha Lounge in Goodmayes Road, Goodmayes, on September 26 and found around 70 people inside, breaking COVID laws.

Officers told Redbridge Council they were sprayed with a fire extinguisher while trying to shut the party down and that attendees claimed to be celebrating the fatal shooting of PC Matt Ratana the previous day.

On December 15, the council’s licensing committee met to decide what to do about Basement Lounge. The venue’s owner, Ajmal Ali, did not attend.

Mr Ali, who was fined £10,000 following the party, has been contacted for comment on the council’s decision but has yet to respond.

Explaining the committee’s decision, chairman Cllr Roy Emmett (Lab, Hainault) wrote that the council takes COVID breaches “very seriously indeed” given the borough’s high rates of infection.

He added: “We were shocked by the levels of aggression and abuse aimed at the police by several patrons, as shown on the body cam footage, and we find the complete lack of management or control on the night directly contributed to this.

“Mr Ali’s response initially blaming other premises, his lack of urgency in engaging with the police after the incident and his failure to attend this hearing demonstrates a very poor attitude towards his responsibilities.”

Cllr Emmett added that there was a history of problems at the venue spanning several years, including a fatal stabbing in 2016.

At the hearing, police representative Charles Forrest told the committee: “Patrons were shouting in police officers’ faces, not wearing any masks and in very close proximity.

“They celebrated the very recent death of Matt Ratana, they mocked police about the death and they also implied a threat, saying ‘it’s not just in Croydon where these things happen’.”

“This is not strike one, there have been a number of strikes over the years. The fact (Mr Ali) is not here today really speaks volumes, he can’t or does not want to answer any of the serious problems raised by the police.

“When first emailed about September 26, his reaction was to blame a nearby venue. He’s either being dishonest or he has absolutely no idea what’s going on at this venue.”

Emails from Mr Ali, also published by the council, claim many complaints about his business are “unfounded allegations” and that there are “many, many inaccuracies”.

The business is now listed as “permanently closed” on Google and its website no longer appears to be active.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter