Opposition to late licence application by Woodford Green venue labelled a “COVID factory”

A venue accused of running a “COVID factory” during last year’s lockdowns is hoping to hold eleven late night parties over the festive period.

Restaurant and bar Melin Chigwell, in Woodford Green, made national news last year for holding at least five “lockdown parties” for hundreds of revellers.

Owner Ali Melin was stripped of his licence in January 2021, after the area’s local councillor described the business as a “COVID factory” and “threat to public health”.

The business has remained open awaiting a court challenge of Redbridge’s decision to revoke its licence. General manager Mannu Dahiya, 39, has since been appointed as director of the restaurant.

At a meeting of the licensing sub-committee today, the restaurant’s representative asked councillors to grant permission for the bar to stay open until 2am on each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between December 8 and 31.

Agent Graham Hopkins told committee members: “First and foremost Melin is a restaurant, so the customers there on that night will have a full table.

“People will meet there with friends or family, have a full meal, and the purpose of this application is that they can stay there a little bit longer to enjoy a drink.

“It’s not a nightclub, it’s a restaurant, they will all have eaten a full meal.”

Hopkins said customers would have “two-hour slots” for dinner, but accepted some customers would go upstairs after their meal to listen to the DJ or live music.

He added that after midnight there will only be “background music”, and staff will conduct hourly checks from nearby streets using “noise meters” on their phones.

While Dahiya suggested there would only be 50 customers leaving at 2am, committee members said they were “confused” about why he was applying for a maximum of 270 customers.

During the hearing it emerged that a month ago Melin started advertising the events, including a “Christmas Eve special” running from 1pm to “late”.

Dahiya said the adverts were posted on Instagram by a member of staff without his knowledge.

The committee heard that as recently as November this year neighbours had complained about loud noise from the bar eleven times.

Both police licensing officer Mick Neal and Redbridge licensing officer Lee Williams opposed all of the Temporary Entertainment Notices.

PC Neal said: “Police have concerns that this restaurant is trying to operate as a nightclub, simply by the timings on the application.”

He added that recent noise complaints show their policy for managing customers leaving the venue are “ineffective”.

Williams told the committee the bar deliberately turned down music whenever enforcement officers approached and claimed restaurant staff had “not cooperated”.

He added: “Let’s face it, people are going to arrive and stay until 2am, they’re not going to leave are they? It’s becoming a club venue.”

A committee decision will be published no later than 24 hours before December 8.

Melin Chigwell has remained open awaiting a court challenge of Redbridge’s decision to revoke its licence
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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter