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A popular Turkish restaurant in Ilford risks losing its licence afer police accused the owner of endangering his customers and “barging” an officer.
Hikmet Kilicoglu, owner of Eyva Turkish Grill and Meze Bar in Goodmayes Road, Goodmayes, denies almost all the allegations against him and insists the officer intimidated and assaulted him.
Redbridge Council’s licensing committee met on Tuesday January 12 to discuss a request from the Metropolitan Police to strip Mr Kilicoglu of his restaurant licence.
During the meeting, they heard about two incidents in October last year when the restaurant is alleged to have either broken or helped others to break lockdown.
In a statement to the committee, licensing officer PC Matt Brown, also the officer accused of assault, wrote that Mr Kilicoglu was “dishonest” and “completely unsuitable” to hold a licence.
He wrote: “At a time when the majority of businesses are abiding by the Covid rules, he is putting the public, his staff and responsible authorities attending his venue at risk.
“He ignores the conditions on his premises licence, has breached them in the past and breached them again.”
On October 2, PC Brown said he saw several customers waiting for food inside the restaurant at 10.45pm, breaking the 10pm curfew, and that staff then lied to him that these were Uber drivers.
The restaurant was fined £1,000 and, according to police counsel Genevieve Woods, had neither paid nor appealed the fine at the time of the hearing.
Mr Kilicoglu’s lawyer Robert Sutherland made it clear the restaurant did not accept the fine, but was told it would have to be contested in a court of law, rather than at a council meeting.
A more serious breach is alleged to have taken place on Halloween. PC Brown was called to a noise complaint at the address, which houses three venues on different floors, shortly after 10.30pm.
The basement of the address is occupied by a shisha bar called After Hours, which was discovered in 2018 illegally using the restaurant’s licence as its own.
PC Brown told the committee the After Hours owner, a Mr Dada, “was crouched down inside Eyva and ran through the restaurant kitchen when he saw police”, although Mr Kilicoglu, who was there, claims he did not see anyone.
PC Brown said he followed what he believed to be the After Hours owner’s route through the restaurant and downstairs to the bar and found 12 customers inside, breaking COVID rules.
According to Mr Sutherland, After Hours maintains these were members of staff present for a training day, although PC Brown alleges the owner did not know “half of their names”.
Police accuse Mr Kilicoglu of letting Mr Dada use the restaurant “as a lookout to attempt to evade detection by police” and later withholding CCTV footage that would prove this.
Mr Kilicoglu did show PC Brown CCTV footage on his phone on October 31 but PC Brown said it “was extremely slow and jumpy” and “also showing the incorrect time”.
PC Brown wrote: “I explained that he needed to provide CCTV footage on a USB stick first thing Monday morning.
“He told me it was his day off the following day and refused to have it ready by Monday morning. I told him it was a condition of his licence.
“At this point he barged into me trying to leave the restaurant. That is the first time in over seven years as a licensing officer that a licensee has deliberately made physical contact with me.
“I shoved him back and told him that if he did not desist I would arrest him.”
On November 3, the council’s licensing enforcement officer Priya Cheema visited the restaurant as the CCTV had not been provided and was told footage from that was, in her words, “conveniently unavailable” because of planned servicing.
She was given a letter to this effect by a man claiming to be the restaurant’s CCTV engineer and told the committee she believes Mr Kilicoglu either enlisted someone to pretend to be an engineer or compelled the real engineer to lie for him.
Mr Kilicoglu denied letting After Hours use his restaurant as a lookout, insisting in a written statement that the accusation is “total nonsense”.
Mr Kilicoglu wrote: “I have not helped, aided and abetted or knowingly done anything to assist anyone in breaching the COVID regulations.
“I take the (COVID) situation very seriously and I have no intention of allowing my staff or customers to be exposed to any risk.
“I do not accept my attitude was or is poor, the police behaviour was very poor and I was assaulted and bullied by them.”
Regarding the events of October 31, he added: “I was angry because (the officers’) behaviour was not good and so I said go away and moved towards the door to ask them to leave.
“Suddenly PC Brown pushed me back and started yelling at me: ‘You hit me and I will arrest you now… I will get you the biggest penalty notice.’
“I decided not to give the footage to the police at that time because the camera time was wrong and I was frightened as to what may happen because of what happened inside the restaurant.”
The restaurant’s lawyer Mr Sutherland questioned PC Brown extensively at the meeting in an attempt to prove he had no objective evidence and had failed to follow proper police procedure.
He argued that the CCTV was not provided to police because they had failed to submit a proper request according to GDPR laws.
Mr Sutherland told the committee: “The basis of the application (to revoke the licence) is that the attitude of Mr Kilicoglu was wrong.
“What I’m seeking to show is that Mr Kilicoglu actually goes along with the police, but there comes a point when his patience is pushed too far.
“At best, we would say the officer was negligent. At worst, we would say he misled the committee in saying Mr Kilicoglu barged into him.”
He noted that Redbridge Council did not appear to have taken any enforcement action against After Hours shisha bar for the alleged COVID breach on October 31.
The restaurant has offered to have the licence transferred to Mr Kilicoglu’s business partner or another suitable person in order to help repair the relationship with local officers.
However, both police and the licensing enforcement team said they would not be satisfied with less than a total revocation of the licence.
The committee is expected to decide what to do about Eyva Turkish Grill and Meze Bar by January 19.