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A well-known Chigwell restaurant has been called a “COVID factory” after hosting months of illegal club nights during the pandemic.
Police claim Ali Melin, owner of Melin Chigwell, can be heard screaming “f**k the lockdown” in a since-deleted video of a packed party posted to his Instagram in November.
Redbridge councillor Paul Canal (Con, Bridge) told the licensing committee today (January 19) that Melin Chigwell is a “real and continuing threat to public health” and called for Mr Melin to lose his licence.
Mr Melin did not attend the meeting and recent Instagram stories posted to his account suggest he is in Dubai. His lawyer left after arguing unsuccessfully for an adjournment.
Cllr Canal said: “I wish to call (Melin Chigwell) a nightclub because that’s how they were operating. I believe a premises of this size with over 100 people inside is a COVID-19 factory.
“The way in which Melin has been run demonstrates that the owner is not in position to act responsibly, and is unlikely to change.”
Police representative Charles Holland said that, after months of events posted on Instagram, police were calling for the licence to be revoked after an event on November 3.
He told the committee officers attended the restaurant at 9.40pm and found the doors, including fire doors, locked and the windows blacked out, as more than 100 people partied inside.
It is thought to be a video from this event that Mr Melin uploaded to his personal Instagram account, in which what officers submit is his voice can be heard yelling “f**k the lockdown”.
Mr Holland criticised not only Mr Melin’s “grim determination” to “maximise his revenue” but also his social media posts “revelling in the illegality of what’s going on”.
The committee also received excerpts from residents’ emails sent to Cllr Canal, describing how weekly noise from parties at the restaurant had affected their lives.
One email, sent on September 6 last year, reads: “The noise from this place on a Friday and Saturday night is just beyond a joke. They do know that it is in a residential area, right?”
Another email, from September 13, added: “The owner is not taking any of this seriously or is too arrogant to think that the rules apply to him.”
All identifying details were removed from the emails, which Cllr Canal said was because residents feared repercussions from Mr Melin if they criticised him openly.
The restaurant made national news in September last year after Mr Melin was recorded threatening to take staff “into the basement” if they kept their tips.
Cllr Canal played the recording leaked to the press by a member staff in September last year for the committee to demonstrate why residents were afraid.
In the recording, a voice, which Mr Melin confirmed to The Sun was his own, can be heard telling staff: “You are not paid any tips whatsoever.
“If I see again that someone has put money in their pocket, I will either, one, report it to the police or, two, take them into the basement. Simple as that: you take money from me, I will take something from you.”
After public uproar, the official Melin Chigwell Instagram posted a since-deleted statement explaining that tips are “split among staff” after being collected, adding: “To learn staff were stealing tips from the entire team was extremely disappointing.”
In September, the council issued a “notice of direction” to the restaurant, ordering it to stop using its first floor as a dance floor or play any kind of music.
At the time, Cllr Mark Santos, cabinet member for health, said this should “serve as a warning” to businesses that they cannot “defy the rules without consequences”.
However, emails sent to Cllr Canal by residents suggest little changed after the council enforcement.
The committee will notify all parties of its decision by January 26.