Ilford shisha lounge’s licence in the balance after illegal party clash with police

The owner of a Goodmayes shisha lounge that hosted an illegal party did not attend a meeting at which police asked the council to revoke his licence.

Redbridge Council’s licensing committee met on Wednesday December 16 to discuss the event for around 70 people at The Basement Shisha Lounge in Goodmayes Road on September 26.

Police officers claim they were sprayed with a fire extinguisher and verbally abused by those at the party, who said they were celebrating the death of police officer Matt Ratana the day before.

Charles Forest, representing police at the meeting, said there had been problems at the venue for years, citing a fatal stabbing at the lounge in 2016.

Owner Ajmal Ali, who was fined £1,000 over the party, did not attend the meeting.

Mr Forest told the committee: “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.”

In his written submission to the committee, PC Matt Brown, who was present on the night, said officers arrived shortly after 11pm.

He described police being “forced out of the door” of the venue by men who “barricaded themselves inside” and then sprayed officers with fire extinguishers.

He claimed that when police were finally able to shut the party down, “up to 100 patrons came out of the small venue” and a “significant number of them were hostile to police”.

Mr Forest 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’.”

Matt Ratana was a 54-year-old police sergeant who died after being shot at Croydon Custody Centre in the early hours of September 25.

PC Brown wrote that he spoke to Mr Ali on October 9, almost two weeks after the event, and was told he was “rarely on site because of his family with poor health”.

He said Mr Ali claimed he could not produce CCTV footage from that evening “because the hard drive was fried at the time”.

PC Brown added: “A number of residents have provided statements to the police in which they complain of late night parties.

“There appears to be no control at the venue whatsoever. There are serious Covid breaches where the public is being put at risk… (and) residents are constantly being disturbed.”

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

Speaking in September, council leader Cllr Jas Athwal said the incident at The Basement Lounge was “absolutely shocking and totally unacceptable”.

He added: “The owner showed a complete disregard for public safety and displayed just the type of selfish behaviour that will drive up our infection rate.

“Fortunately, thanks to our hardworking enforcement officers and local police, we were able to temporarily shut down the business and issue a hefty fine.”

A decision will be made within five working days.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter