An Indian restaurant will have its alcohol licence suspended for two months after immigration officials discovered that a person working at the premises had overstayed their right to remain in the UK.

The individual was found at the Bangla Spice Brasserie in Clayton-le-Woods during a targeted visit in June, a meeting of Chorley Council’s licensing committee heard.

The discovery was made while Fayzul Islam – the premises licence holder and designated premises supervisor – was abroad after being caught up in a Covid lockdown in Bangladesh. That meant he was away from the Wigan Road venue between March – when he embarked on what was intended to be a four-week trip to the country – and late June.

Mr Islam was issued with a “stern warning” by the committee after concerns were also raised about who was ultimately responsible for licensed activity at the restaurant in his absence.

The two-month licence suspension means that the restaurant cannot serve alcohol during that period – but customers would be permitted to bring their own to consume, if the venue chooses to allow it.   The business can and, the operator has said, will remain open throughout that time – and the suspension of the licence is not expected to come into force for several weeks.

Separately, Immigration Enforcement has issued the venue with an unspecified fine for employing the illegal worker.

The council’s enforcement team leader, Nathan Howson, told the committee that a claim made on the night of the immigration visit on 11th June that the staff member was working only his first shift was “not credible by any stretch of the imagination”.

Mr. Howson said that intelligence about the presence of the employee had been received by immigration officials back in May and that enforcement officers had simply attended the premises “on a day that was convenient to us”.

Papers presented to the committee state that the brasserie’s chef, Ashik Miah – who had founded the venture in 2013 and ran it until 2019 – had hired the worker as a “one-off” without checking the necessary documents.

After the meeting, the restaurant’s manager insisted to the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the man had been taken on “just to cover that night”, amidst an ongoing struggle to recruit staff during the pandemic.

“One of the [regular] staff was quite ill that day,” said Jamal Ali.

“It was very hard to find staff – people didn’t want to go back to work because of the pandemic, they were scared.   Nobody in the restaurant knew that [the individual] was an illegal worker – [including] Mr. Miah.”

Mr. Howson had invited the committee to revoke the premises licence in its entirety in view of Licensing Act guidance that states the employment of people whose immigration status means they are not permitted to work should be taken “particularly seriously” – and given what he described as the “aggravating factor of the poor management of the premises”.

Fayzul Islam told members that even if he had been working at the restaurant at the time of the enforcement visit, hiring staff and checking their immigration status was “not my department”.

He also said had been advised by the director of the company that runs the brasserie – Rezwan Hussain of Noy Bhai Restaurant Limited – before he left for Bangladesh that a designated premises supervisor with a personal licence had been appointed to “fill in” for him.   That man, Abdul Malique, was present on the night of the enforcement visit, but said it was his first shift back after over a year on furlough and he was “just here to help”.

Mr. Howson concluded that Mr. Malique did not have “any supervisory or management capacity at the premises”.

Immigration officer Paul Lewin told the committee that, during the visit, it had been “difficult for us to establish who was responsible for the employment of staff, who was conducting pre-employment checks and, ultimately, who to serve the civil penalty on”.

However, Mr. Islam said that it would be “harsh” for the licence to be revoked – but said he would leave it in the “good hands” of the three-strong committee of councillors.

Announcing the decision to suspend the license for two months and issue a warning to Mr. Islam, committee chair Cllr Margaret France said that there was a risk of a recurrence of the issues without “a change in the attitude of the premises licence holder” – and the imposition of a condition on the licence when it is reinstated.

That will require the business to ensure that an “appropriate system of checks” is in place to ensure that only those with the right to work in the UK are employed – a record of which must be kept for six months after a person stops working at the venue.

“Members also recommend that the premises licence holder takes heed of the recommendations of licensing officers regarding the proper management of the premises,” Cllr France added.

The illegal worker was arrested and detained after the enforcement visit ahead of his planned removal from the country and return to Bangladesh.    However, he is now on immigration bail in the UK after launching an appeal, the committee was told.