Jilabi, a popular Indian restaurant in Sheldon, which has been frequented by Home Secretary Sajid Javid and other high profile customers had its alcohol licence stripped permanently by Birmingham City Council in a landmark immigration case for the authority on Thursday 3rd January.
A licensing sub-committee heard that police, alongside Home Office and immigration officials, swooped on the premises on Coventry Road around 8pm on November 23 following a tip-off. It was then at this point that five men tried to run out of the back door where awaiting police officers ushered them back inside the restaurant.
The restaurant was nominated as one of best Indian restaurants in Birmingham according to the English Curry Awards 2017. Three men, all from Bangladesh, were ultimately arrested, the longest offender having been an illegal immigrant since 2010.
As well as the five arrested inspectors were later told up to ten further men had removed their staff clothing and blended in with customers to avoid detection, although investigators could not confirm the allegations.
Police also found that CCTV was not installed, in breach of the restaurant’s licence, and that staff training was not up to standard. All three immigrants have since been returned or are due to be returned to their home country.
Addressing the committee PC Abdool Rohomon, West Midlands Police licensing officer, said: “This is not about how well they are run, how good the curry is and how popular they are.”
“It is a very popular place there are pictures of the Home Secretary having been there, I’m sure he’d love that now.”
He added: “You instill upon them trust and they have to comply. The trust has totally been eroded by their actions.”
The council took an interim step to suspend the licence on December 7 prior to today’s expedited review.
Jilabi opened in 2002 and expanded into the former Chinese restaurant next door in 2014.
The fact that they had two licences, one for Jilabi and another for Delicious Buffet, was another thorny issue with police who argued they had been effectively operating as one business.
Abdul Rouf, one of the joint licence holders at the premises, claimed two of the immigrants had started a trial period the day before the police raid and that he had delegated responsibility for checking their paperwork because he had taken a day off at short notice.
He admitted that the third man had been there around two weeks and they had only seen his driving licence.
Mr Rouf pointed out that since the inspection he had hired an administrator to help with checks and paperwork, installed CCTV and updated staff training.
He said: “I apologise profusely. I am sorry for having to bring everybody here.
“I’m responsible for everything that went on and going forward I have taken on board our mistakes. They happened inadvertently and I want to reassure that nothing of this nature or any other mishap will occur under my watch.”
Mr Rouf confirmed he would have to lay off a number of staff due to the licence revocation – the strongest sanction available to the council.
He added: “I have let myself down, my customers down and the environment around me down.”