A Bradford shisha business has been fined £20,000 after repeatedly operating illegally during lockdown.
Smoky Park, which runs a drive-in shisha site at the Legrams Lane food court, was handed the huge fine by Magistrates on Tuesday after they heard of the company’s repeated breaches of Coronavirus legislation.
The company was listed to appear at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates Court to answer charges that it was found to have been open and operating at least four times during lockdown.
On one occasion, council officers and police found 50 cars parked up at the business, and on another, they met with resistance from staff.
Due to these visits, the company had been ordered to pay £17,000 in Fixed Penalty Notices but had failed to pay any of this, leading to the court summons.
Harjit Ryatt, prosecuting, detailed the numerous lockdown breaches at the business at Tuesday’s hearing.
He said that the Council had received complaints about the business operating during a period of the Covid-19 pandemic when such businesses should have been shut.
At a time when most businesses were shut as part of efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19, this Shisha business was attracting dozens of people each night.
The business operates from the Ingleby Road food court, a site that also includes a number of cafes, takeaways and a restaurant.
Customers park their cars, order which shisha they want, and staff bring them a pipe from a first-floor room. They then smoke that pipe in their cars.
Mr Ryatt said Council officers and police visited the site in January 2021 at 9pm.
He told magistrates: “They could see the rear car park of the food court had approximately 13 cars parked in it. All the cars had shisha pipes at the side of the car and the cars’ occupiers were inhaling smoke from the pipe.
“Officers observed what was happening for about 90 minutes. It appeared shisha pipes were being prepared in an upstairs room and brought down at each customer’s requirements.”
The Council issued the business a fixed penalty notice of £1,000, which was never paid.
Mr Ryatt added: “Complaints continued, and officers re-visited the site on 9 May at 11.30pm. They saw 25 cars in the rear car park with shisha pipes.”
An environmental health officer went to the room where the pipes were being prepared and saw seven men inside smoking shisha. They were given the phone number of the owner and spoke to a person claiming to be the director of the business.
He was advised the business needed to close and that the company had been issued with a prohibition notice.
They were issued with another fixed penalty notice – this time for £2,000.
On 10 June, police and environmental services again visited, and saw 15 cars parked at the business.
Mr Ryatt said officers again attempted to go to the upstairs room but were met with some resistance from the person who appeared to be in charge.
After a heated argument, the person in charge agreed to close the premises. The business was issued with a fixed penalty notice of £4,000.
Police and council officers attended again on 26 June, this time finding 50 cars in the car park, with 40 having lit shisha pipes next to them.
Mr Ryatt said: “Officers were obstructed in their enforcement duties by staff present.”
A fixed penalty notice of £10,000 was issued to the business.
The court heard that the business had not cooperated, or paid any of the fixed penalty notices, and Mr Ryatt said: “The council’s only option was to prosecute the company”.
Magistrates ordered the business to pay a fine of £20,000, which will replace the previous £17,000 in penalty notices owed by the company.
They will also have to pay £2,270 costs and a £190 surcharge.
After the case Councillor Sarah Ferriby, the Council’s executive member for health people and places, said: “Sharing shisha pipes carries significant health risks at the best of times, not only from the tobacco but also from diseases like TB and Covid-19.
“Continuing to run such a business during the second Covid-19 lockdown in the confines of people’s cars makes this worse.
“We continue to support businesses that followed Covid-19 rules and bore a heavy burden during the lockdowns but we will also ensure businesses that ignored these rules, and put residents in our district at risk, are clear of the consequences of their actions in court.”