Two York restaurants have had their licences revoked by the council – after evidence that illegal workers were being paid as little as £2 an hour.
The Regency restaurants in Barbican Road and George Hudson Street have have had their licences withdrawn after City of York Council and North Yorkshire Police highlighted a string of incidents during the past few years.
They include 16 illegal workers being removed from the restaurants, the company being prosecuted for food hygiene breaches at one site and selling a knife to an underage person at another.
In the space of two and a half years – from April 2017 to September 2019 – a total of 10 illegal workers have been discovered at the Barbican Road site and a further six at the George Hudson Street premises.
Gary Grant, solicitor for the council, told a hearing, vulnerable people were being exploited: “There is evidence in this case suggesting for example, that the workers were paid no more than £2 or £3 an hour.
“For those vulnerable people they know they cannot go to the authorities.
“It undercuts all the other law-abiding restaurateurs in York, who have to pay the legal minimum wage. That is deeply unjust.
“The operators of these restaurants are incorrigible employers of illegal workers.”
He also highlighted concerns over fire safety and an incident in which the owners were cautioned over the sale of a knife to a person under 18 in 2017.
He said: “The licensing authority does not make an application to revoke a licence lightly. But in this case we say the evidence suggests that the licensing objectives can only appropriately and proportionately be promoted by the full revokation of both licenses.”
Sergeant Jackie Booth of North Yorkshire Police added: “There are grave concerns that the premises licence holder will not engage with the local authority or the police to ensure compliance.”
But Riyaz Shaikh, solicitor representing the owners of The Regency restaurants, said the incidents happened some time ago.
He said: “The appropriate authorities could have prosecuted on a number of occasions. There has not been a single prosecution for illegal workers at either of The Regency restaurants.
“They would maintain that they have not knowingly employed any illegal workers.
“In November 2019, notices were complied with and there seems to have been no further issues.
“They have rectified the situation. This is a family-run business.”
While police and the council said beds had been found in rooms above the restaurants, Mr Shaikh said sleeping upstairs has never been permitted, adding: “Certain individuals working late into the night do take a 15 to 20 minute nap, is my understanding of it.”
But councillors revoked the licence for both premises.