Southampton restaurant Iroko Lounge is shut for 2 months for 'worst' Covid-19 breach in Hampshire

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A RESTAURANT has lost its licence for two months after hosting a party with more than 100 revellers dancing next to each other during the pandemic.

Iroko Lounge, in Onslow Road, Southampton, will not be able to reopen until November 18 after police said it was involved in ‘the worst breach’ of Covid-19 guidance across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

A police report revealed that more than 100 people were at a party at the venue in the early hours of August 23.

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Police officers could not fully enter the venue ‘due to the number of persons inside dancing in immediate proximity to each other’.

File photo of police in Portsmouth. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (310519-11)File photo of police in Portsmouth. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (310519-11)
File photo of police in Portsmouth. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (310519-11)

There was no evidence of social distancing, no Covid-19 risk assessment and track and trace details ‘did not exist’, the force said.

Hundreds of nitrous oxide canisters were also found on the floor.

At the venue Malcolm Forbes identified himself as ‘being in charge’ and told the police the event was a private party and that he was doing ‘nothing wrong’.

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People dancing ‘next to each other’

In a report, the police said: ‘He would not accept that clearly having over 100 persons inside what is a very small confined space that prior to Covid should in my opinion not have had more than 60 persons inside was wrong.’

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Southampton restaurant in 'serious breach' of Covid-19 regulations

The report revealed police had to deal with ‘continued anti-social behaviour from the 100-strong group as they blocked the road and refused to disperse’ after leaving the venue.

Reports shown at the licensing sub-committee at Southampton City Council claimed the venue had been booked for 50 people but the party was ‘gatecrashed by a significant number of people’.

The meeting on September 23 was told new mitigation measures had been agreed with the police.

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Councillors were told Mr Forbes had been running the venue after he was granted a lease by premises licence holder Haydar Rahman last year.

Venue owner apologises

Mr Rahman, whose family has run the venue for 40 years, apologised and said he was not aware of the party at the site.

Solicitor Philip Day, representing Mr Rahman, said his client has a track record of running ‘trouble-free’ venues.

Mr Day told members Mr Forbes is no longer associated with the venue.

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The committee suspended the licence until November 18 and applied new conditions agreed with the police, including a requirement for CCTV cameras, staff training and limiting the sale of alcohol only to customers dining at the venue.

In a statement members of the committee said: ‘Our decision in no way relinquishes the responsibility of the premises’ license holder, however, following police recommendations, conditions were agreed that ensured the property owner, who was not present at the events in the early hours of August 23, 2020, will work closely with both the police and licensing in addressing concerns whilst operating his premises for the purpose as intended.

‘If the circumstances had been different, and we were dealing directly with the person responsible on-site, then there is no doubt that this decision would have resulted in the full revocation of the premises’ licence.’

No-one charged or arrested

Hampshire police confirmed no-one was charged or arrested in connection with the incident. At the meeting police said Covid guidelines were ‘not supported with a great deal of enforcement powers’.

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The Local Democracy Reporting Service tried to contact Mr Forbes.

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