Indian restaurant near Bristol refused licence amid claims new owner ‘simply a front man’

It was stripped of its licence after two raids by immigration enforcement found people working there illegally
Posh Spice restaurant in Nailsea was closed down after immigration raidsPosh Spice restaurant in Nailsea was closed down after immigration raids
Posh Spice restaurant in Nailsea was closed down after immigration raids

An Indian restaurant in Somerset at the centre of an immigration row has been refused a new licence, amid claims of bottles of alcoholic spirits being “stuck in a bucket in the disabled toilet,” people working illegally, and the new owner being “simply a front man.”

Posh Spice in Nailsea was stripped of its licence by North Somerset Council in April, after two raids by immigration enforcement found people working there illegally. Not having a licence means Posh Spice cannot sell alcohol. It also cannot sell hot food past 11pm.

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In August, Ashequl Bari Numan — who says he is the restaurant’s new owner after previous owner Golap Miah gifted it to him — applied for a new licence. But at a hearing before North Somerset Council ’s licensing subcommittee, police licensing officer Andy Manhire said: “All the evidence to me suggests strongly that Mr Numan is simply a frontman.”

Mr Manhire said that, when asked for proof of his ownership, Mr Numan was not able to produce any, until later sending a document valid from the day after that conversation. The food company registered for the premises also lists a Mohammed Iqbal Miah as a director alongside Mr Numan.

Mr Manhire said that Mohammed Iqbal Miah had denied being any connection to Golap Miah and — when he pointed out that they had both been convicted together in 2014 — Mohammed Iqbal Miah said there had been so many defendants he did not know Golap Miah.

But North Somerset Council’s food and commercial safety service leader Jane Day, who told the committee that she had dealt with both men and their restaurants since 2003, told Mr Manhire they were brothers.

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Councillor Mike Solomon, who sits on the licensing subcommittee, commented: “So it went from him not knowing him, to being involved in a court case together, to being his biological brother?”

Mr Manhire added that Mohammed Iqbal Miah had claimed he was listed as a director of the food company by mistake, but councillors on the committee questioned how this would be possible. Ms Day added: “Every time we do visit, the staff defer to Mr Miah. They don’t defer to Mr Numan.”

Mr Manhire also told the committee: “On the last visitation, there were these two illegal workers located there. Mr Numan was, by his own admission, 100% in charge then.”

He added that, during the visit, alcohol was still on display in Posh Spice despite it not having a licence at that point, including open bottles of wine in the fridge.

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He said: “Stuck in a bucket in the disabled toilet was about ten bottles of spirits with the labels still on.” He said it was suggested to him they were put there while redecorating was going on, but he warned that anyone — including children — who used the toilet would have had unsupervised access to the alcohol.

When Posh Spice’s licence was revoked in April, the hearing almost fell apart after immigration enforcement — who had called the review — did not attend the hearing, although an officer later joined through video link. But this time, it was the restaurant’s representatives who were a no show.

Council staff said they called Mr Numan and were told he could not afford his legal representative and could not come himself because he had to go to hospital. But officers said: “It’s not the first excuse he has given for this.”

Council officers said: “He was aware that the hearing was going ahead; he was sent the notice of hearing; he responded to the notice of hearing.” Officers added that his legal representation, Manpreet Kapoor, had also emailed last week to say they would both be attending.

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Giving the subcommittee’s judgement, councillor Stuart Davies said: “It’s alarm bells ringing.”

He said: “We feel that the spirits stored in the ice bucket in the disabled toilet is something that’s totally unacceptable. […] We are also aware that there was alcohol on the premises that was being displayed and there was two bottles that were open and kept in the fridge.”

He added that they had “no evidence whatsoever of ownership” and were not satisfied that Mohammed Iqbal Miah would not have a role in running the business.

Mr Numan will have 21 days to appeal the decision.

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